Marian Anderson

  • William H. Johnson, Marian Anderson, ca. 1945, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.657

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In 1939, opera singer Marian Anderson was barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing in Washington’s Constitution Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt intervened, and Anderson was invited to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She sang on Easter Sunday, April 9th, before an audience of seventy-five thousand people, while millions more listened on the radio. William H. Johnson painted the event some years later, and the European flags and landmarks surrounding the central figure show that the artist recognized the parallels between Anderson’s career and his own.

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“I said yes, but the yes did not come easily or quickly . . . As I thought further, I could see that my significance as an individual was small in this affair. I had become, whether I like it or not, a symbol, representing my people.” Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson
ca. 1945
On View
35 5/8 x 28 7/8 in. (90.4 x 73.2 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Harmon Foundation

  • Architecture Exterior – civic – Lincoln Memorial
  • Architecture Exterior – civic – Eiffel Tower
  • Architecture Exterior – civic – White House
  • Object – other – flag
  • Portrait female – Anderson, Marian – full length
  • Performing arts – music – voice
  • Portrait female – Roosevelt, Eleanor
  • Architecture – religious – church
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI