Feb 19, 2009



c. 1938

Sargent Johnson

(American, 1888–1967)

Graphite and charcoal with graphite framing lines

Support: White wove paper laid down on board (illustration board)

Overall: 35.6 x 20 cm (14 x 7 7/8 in.)

Dudley P. Allen Fund 2000.70



Sargent Johnson became the most significant African American sculptor of his generation. He was born in Boston but grew up in San Francisco and received his principle training at the California School of Fine Arts. Johnson became nationally prominent through a series of exhibitions developed and supported by the Harmon Foundation, a New York-based organization significant in its promotion of African American artists at a national level in the 1920s and 30s. This drawing is closely related to Johnson's 1938 lithograph White and Black, a work influenced by Cubism featuring a standing African American woman, her head in profile, holding a strand of beads. The drawing is a truncated version of this composition, with the same head in profile and similar forms, including beads and coils, but the figure is less evident and the overall effect is more abstract. This work represents a distinctly African American form of modernism that combines a sophisticated but highly personal adaptation of the cubist language with a treatment of subject meant to convey pride in the artist's own culture and race.

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