William H. Johnson
Oil on plywood
Smithsonian American Art Museum
“Family is a subject he did so often,” Broun says. “They are all more or less related to his own family.” In this painting, each member has a unique skin tone as well, Broun observes. “He uses it as a way to portray racial identity and commitment,” she adds. Johnson altered his image of himself through the years. By the end of his career he was doing self-portraits in which appeared very dark, whereas early on he was lighter skinned as he was in photographs, she says.