Self-Portrait

The compressed space in Self-Portrait speaks to Johnson’s profound awareness of modernist compositional devices. The easel at the left side of the canvas identifies him as an artist, and the masks in the background make an assertive statement about his African American heritage. In 1934, the year he painted his self-portrait, Johnson joined the ranks of the Public Works of Art Project, the first of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal art programs, which paid artists a monthly stipend. Although the job lasted only six months, Johnson was finally able to paint full time. Ironically, the year proved to be Johnson’s most prolific but also the last of his short life.

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

Title
Self-Portrait
Artist
Date
1934
Location
Not on view
Dimensions
38 1430 in. (97.276.2 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
Classifications
Keywords
  • African-American
  • Occupation – art – painter
  • Portrait male – Johnson, Malvin Gray – self-portrait
  • African American
Object Number
1967.57.30
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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