Juan Duran

  • Kenneth M. Adams, Juan Duran, 1933-1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.148

Juan Duran, the New Mexican man who posed for this portrait, brings the brilliant light and vivid colors of his native desert landscape into the artist’s studio with him. In works like this one Kenneth Adams, who had left New York to join the artists’ colony in Taos, adapted the bold colors and geometrically faceted forms of European modernism to painting New Mexican landscapes and people. In Adams’s daring rendition, Duran’s hair and mustache are shown as green rather than the gray they probably really were. The bright colors of Duran’s clothing are reflected in the skin of his broad, strong hands and blunt face. Even as this powerful man sits smoking with his hands resting on his knees, the lively hues and vigorous brushwork of the painting suggest the energy he will bring to his work when he finishes his cigarette.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Kenneth Adams painted Juan Duran as a proud laborer taking a cigarette break. Duran’s heavy coat and blue overalls underscore his enduring strength and echo the folds around his weary eyes. The artist emphasized Duran’s strong hands by placing them prominently on his knees, reinforcing the value of manual labor. Like many artists of the 1930s, Adams worked for the Works Progress Administration. He and his peers created images that gave dignity to laborers and helped the artists themselves to feel as though they were valued members of the workforce.

Juan Duran
Not on view
40 1830 18 in. (102.076.5 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Mexican
  • New Deal – Public Works of Art Project – New Mexico
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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