John Henry

  • Frederick Brown, John Henry, 1979, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, © 1979, Frederick J. Brown, Gift of Gerald L. Pearson, 1995.22.1

Exhibition Label
John Henry tells a story of pathos and protest that lives in the folklore and ballads of America. Countless versions exist, but all of them speak of a slave freed at the end of the Civil War who worked for the C&O Railway and possessed near superhuman strength. Brown, who grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood near the steel mills in South Chicago, blends elements of the original John Henry legend with the lives of contemporary steelworkers concerned about layoffs when the American steel industry began outsourcing jobs abroad. Like the narrator in a Greek tragedy, he has linked the story with contemporary experience.


African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012
Title
John Henry
Artist
Date
1979
On View
Not on view.
Dimensions
84 x 60 1/8 in. (213.4 x 152.7 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Gerald L. Pearson

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
Classifications
Keywords
  • Animal – dog
  • Ethnic – African-American
  • Landscape – celestial – sun
  • Architecture – vehicle – train
  • Animal – bird – parrot
  • Portrait male – Henry, John
Object Number
1995.22.1
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More from artist

1983
oil on canvas
1989
oil on linen
1970
oil, silica, and glue on canvas
1981
oil on canvas

More Artworks from the Collection

1993
oil on panel
1929
oil on canvas
1967
oil on canvas