Off to War

  • William H. Johnson, Off to War, ca. 1942-1944, oil on plywood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.605

Luce Center Label

In 1942, on National Negro Achievement Day, William H. Johnson received a certificate of honor for his “distinguished service to America in Art.” The award recognized his scenes of black soldiers, which Johnson began painting after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Off to War shows a young man leaving his family in the rural South. Just up the road, a figure on a bus sticks his head out to urge him on. The family forms a pattern of red, white and blue that contrasts with the menacing, bile-colored horizon. Three telephone poles like the crosses on Calvary march into the distance, conveying a blessing on the young soldier or suggesting perhaps the sacrifice that he might have to make.

Off to War
ca. 1942-1944
Not on view
25 1/8 x 32 5/8 in. (63.9 x 83.0 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Mediums Description
oil on plywood
  • Figure group – family
  • Occupation – military – soldier
  • Architecture Exterior – domestic – farmhouse
  • Object – other – flag
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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