Copied Sargent Johnson, Mask, ca. 1930-1935, copper on wood base, 15 34 × 13 38 × 6 18 in. (40 × 34 × 15.6 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of International Business Machines Corporation, 1966.27.4

Artwork Details

ca. 1930-1935
Not on view
15 34 × 13 38 × 6 18 in. (40 × 34 × 15.6 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of International Business Machines Corporation
Mediums Description
copper on wood base
  • African American
  • Figure female — head
Object Number

Artwork Description

Johnson learned to work copper sheet metal in the 1920s as an assistant in the studio of the sculptor Beniamino Bufano, one of his instructors at the California School of the Fine Arts in San Francisco. The stylized oval of the face, generous lips, and wide nose reflect Johnson's aim to show the "pure American Negro." He said he wanted to depict the "natural beauty and dignity in that characteristic lip, that characteristic hair, bearing and manner." With Mask, Johnson situated the image of the black face within a dialogue about race taking place among Alain Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes and other poets and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012


Media - 1995.22.1 - SAAM-1995.22.1_1 - 65784
African American Art in the 20th Century
January 18, 2019January 18, 2019
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to one of the most significant collections of African American art in the world.