• Sargent Johnson, Mask, ca. 1930-1935, copper on wood base, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of International Business Machines Corporation, 1966.27.4

Exhibition Label

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

ca. 1930-1935
On View
Not on view.
15 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 6 in. (39.4 x 34.3 x 15.3 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of International Business Machines Corporation

Mediums Description
copper on wood base
  • Ethnic – African-American
  • Figure female – head
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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