Southern Gate

Media - 1980.137.19 - SAAM-1980.137.19_1 - 51977
Copied Eldzier Cortor, Southern Gate, 1942-1943, oil on canvas, 46 1422 in. (117.555.8 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, Martha Jackson Memorial Collection, 1980.137.19

Artwork Details

Southern Gate
Not on view
46 1422 in. (117.555.8 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, Martha Jackson Memorial Collection
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Figure female — nude
  • Figure female — knee length
  • Architecture Exterior — detail — gate
  • African American
Object Number

Artwork Description

Painted in the early years of World War II, Southern Gate offers, a surreal, dreamlike picture of a solemn young woman standing in a space defined by a once-elegant wrought-iron fence, a river, and the steeple of a distant church. They are evocative elements -- the river is a traditional metaphor for passage, the fence an emblem of both confinement and of safe haven from the outside world. Wearing a necklace adorned with a cross and with a bird perched on her shoulder, she invites associations with the Virgin Mary; but Cortor's figure is as physical as she is innocent, an Edenic Eve who stands outside the sacred garden.

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