I Baptize Thee

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

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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
Artists
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
Classifications
Keywords
  • Figure group
  • Ethnic – African-American
  • Ceremony – religion – baptism
Object Number
1967.59.977
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI