I Baptize Thee

  • William H. Johnson, I Baptize Thee, ca. 1940, oil on burlap, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.977

Luce Center Label

In the background of this painting, Sunday suits and best dresses evoke a Baptist congregation in a rural community. Nearer the viewer, however, the strong profiles, closed eyes, and exaggerated hands and feet recall African art and older rituals of faith. The preacher and congregants stand in a creek or a pond to symbolize crossing the River Jordan into a new life. This symbolism applied as well to the dramatic change in William H. Johnson’s career when he returned to America in 1938.

Title
I Baptize Thee
Artist
Date
ca. 1940
On View
Dimensions
38 1/8 x 45 1/2 in. (96.9 x 115.6 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on burlap
Classifications
Keywords
  • Figure group
  • Ethnic – African-American
  • Ceremony – religion – baptism
Object Number
1967.59.977
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More from artist

ca. 1944
oil on paperboard
1944
oil on paperboard
ca. 1923-1926
oil on canvas
ca. 1944
oil on fiberboard
ca. 1935-1938
oil on burlap
ca. 1943-1944
oil on paperboard

More Artworks from the Collection