The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of August 28, 2016

Go Down Death, 1934

oil on Masonite, Framed: 124.46 x 93.98 x 3.81 cm (49 x 37 x 1 1/2 inches); Unframed: 121.90 x 91.50 cm (47 15/16 x 36 inches). John L. Severance Fund and Gift of Prof. and Mrs. David C. Driskell 2005.181

Douglas is widely credited to have been the first African American artist to adopt an avant-garde style. This painting is based upon an illustration he made for God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (1927), a book by noted author and civil rights advocate James Weldon Johnson. Its subject tells the story of a winged angel of death who races through the heavens on horseback to rescue a woman from a life of suffering. Perhaps underscoring the theme of deliverance is the single star placed prominently in the composition, which according to some scholars symbolizes the North Star that guided fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad.

signed "A. Douglas" lower right corner in purple paint

Two Centuries of Black American Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, September 30-November 21, 1976; High Museum of Art, January 8-February 20, 1977; Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, March 30-May 15, 1977; The Brooklyn Museum, June 25-August 21, 1977, cat. no. 97.
Hidden Heritage: Afro-American Art, 1800-1950, Bellevue Art Museum, Washington, Sept. 14-November 10, 1985; Bronx Museum of the Arts, January 14-March 10, 1986; California Afro-American Museum, Los Angeles, April 7-June 2, 1986; Wadsworth Atheneum, July 4-August 31, 1986; Mint Museum of Art, September 22-November 17, 1986; San Antonio Museum of Art, December 15, 1986-February 9, 1987; Toledo Museum of Art, March 8-May 3, 1987, cat. no. 50.
"Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America," Studio Museum in Harlem, February 12-August 30, 1987; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, April 7-June 5, 1988; High Museum of Art, June 28-September 4, 1988; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME, September 24-November 20, 1988; Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas, Austin, January 14-February 26, 1989; Virginia Museum of the Fine Arts, March 27-May 21, 1989; Cheekwood Museum of Art, Nashville, June 17-August 6, 1989; New York State Museum, Albany, August 29-October 29, 1989.
Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The Davide C. Driskill Collection, The Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park, October 22- December 19, 1998; African American Museum, Dallas, March 13- June 19, 1999; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville Maine, July 21- October 17, 1999; The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, NOvember 20, 1999- February 12, 2000; The HIgh Museum of Art, June 20- September 10, 2000; Newark Museum, October 25, 2000- February 25, 2001; Cincinnati Art Museum, March 17- May 14, 2001; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, July 8- September 30, 2001; Naples Museum of Art, October 15, 2001- January 13, 2002; Mint Museum of Art, April 23- October 25, 2002, cat. no. 14.
"Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America," Studio Museum in Harlem, February 12-August 30, 1987; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, April 7-June 5, 1988; High Museum of Art, June 28-September 4, 1988; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME, September 24-November 20, 1988; Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas, Austin, January 14-February 26, 1989; Virginia Museum of the Fine Arts, March 27-May 21, 1989; Cheekwood Museum of Art, Nashville, June 17-August 6, 1989; New York State Museum, Albany, August 29-October 29, 1989.
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas (9/8/2007 - 12/2/2007), Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville (1/19/2008 - 4/13/2008), National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC (5/9/2008 - 8/3/2008), and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYC (8/30/2008 - 12/30/2008): "Aaron Douglas and the Harlem Renaissance"

Library materials about Aaron Douglas (4)

Detail Views