Early Morning Work

  • William H. Johnson, Early Morning Work, ca. 1940, oil on burlap, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.1082

Exhibition Label
Early Morning Work presents a clear narrative: the day’s chores must be done. But the scene is more than a reminiscence of farm life. It affirms the idea that Southern blacks maintained connections with the cultural heritage of Africa. Though seemingly primitive, the flattened forms and deliberately naïve perspective Johnson used were informed by years of artistic discipline. The man’s profile is a beautifully rendered drawing of an African mask. Hands and mule hoofs are disproportionately large, while the horizontal stripes offer a visual cadence punctuated by the circular forms of a wheel and chickens pecking at the ground.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012
Early Morning Work
ca. 1940
Not on view
38 1/2 x 45 5/8 in. (97.8 x 115.9 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Mediums Description
oil on burlap
  • Animal – donkey
  • Figure group – family
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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