Godly Susan

  • Roger Medearis, Godly Susan, 1941, egg tempera on board, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Roger and Elizabeth Medearis, 1992.84

Roger Medearis completed this painting of his grandmother Susan Carns Medearis at the end of three years’ study with Thomas Hart Benton at the Kansas City Art Institute. Medearis used the sunporch of his father’s church as a makeshift studio to create detailed sketches of his grandmother, who had suffered a stroke several years earlier. He would wheel her up the ramp to the sunporch, where she often fell asleep while he worked. Medearis had her hold a lemon, whose sour taste she enjoyed, in her strong, still-vibrant left hand to contrast the paralyzed right side of her body. This portrait memorialized his beloved family matriarch. He titled the work Godly Susan because Susan Medearis was the daughter and granddaughter of two Baptist ministers and the mother of three more. Born in the early days of the Civil War, her life spanned one of the most formative times in American history; she died only months after this portrait was finished.
I was 21 and my life was just beginning. She was 81 — her life would soon be ending. That year, America entered [World War II] and nothing would ever be the same again!” The artist, quoted in American Art Museum curatorial file.
Godly Susan
Not on view
27 5823 58 in. (70.160.0 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Roger and Elizabeth Medearis

Mediums Description
egg tempera on board
  • Architecture – religious – church
  • Landscape – farm
  • Portrait female – Medearis, Susan Carns – elderly
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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