Tribute to the American Working People

  • Honoré Sharrer, Tribute to the American Working People, 1951, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.97

Exhibition Label
For Tribute to the American Working People, Sharrer, who was employed as a shipyard welder during World War II, employed the polyptych format of medieval Italian religious paintings in which a central panel features a saint and smaller flanking panels depict events in his life. Here the “saint” is recreated as a series of factory workers. The side panels---showing a county fair, a schoolroom, a barnyard scene, and the parlor of a modest home---are drawn from the fabric of American life. The people---whether wearing hair curlers or dancing a jog---are shown simply in the act of living, revealing Sharrer’s hope “to express a sense of humanity.”

Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection, 2014
Luce Center Label

Honoré Sharrer's Tribute questions the future of working people in post--World War II America. The five-panel composition recalls medieval altarpieces, which often show an image of a saint surrounded by illustrations of his or her life. Here, the "saint" is a typical working man, who stands in front of a nineteenth-century factory with the faces of his workmates peering through arched windows behind. The framed design repeats this pattern of windows, as if we are looking from one factory building to another.

Luce Object Quote
"In this picture I painted ordinary people . . . it is these distinguished-undistinguished players that moved and interested me." Artist's statement, 1979
Tribute to the American Working People
On View
Not on view.
overall: 38 3/4 x 77 1/4 in. (98.5 x 196.2 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

  • Architecture Interior – education
  • Figure group
  • Recreation – leisure – conversation
  • Occupation – industry
  • Occupation – farm – harvesting
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI