Decorating the White House with Smithsonian Art- page 14 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
The tradition of Smithsonian museums loaning art to the White House began in the 1940s. (iStockphoto)

Decorating the White House with Smithsonian Art

Continuing a Washington tradition, the Obamas selected artwork from the Smithsonian collections to hang in their historic home

Folk-Family-Obama-art-5

Folk Family
(Maura McCarthy)

William H. Johnson
c.1944
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.

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