In Memoriam: Toni Morrison, 1931–2019

August 6, 2019 - November 7, 2019
Born Lorain, Ohio

Toni Morrison has been writing about the experiences of African Americans since her first novel, The Bluest Eye, appeared in 1970. With the publication of each new work, both her fan base and critical acclaim have grown, and she won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon (1977) and the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987). In 1993 Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature, making her the first black woman to become a Nobel laureate.

Robert McCurdy begins his painted portraits with one photograph selected from hundreds made during a meeting with his subject, asking that person to assume no expression and to make no gestures. He seeks an image that has no implied past or future but exists in the eternal present. McCurdy’s goal is to provide a neutral environment in order to maximize the highly personal nature of the encounter between subject and viewer.

NOTE: The painting is currently on view in the 20th Century Americans: 2000 to Present gallery on the museum's third floor.


African American woman in a gray sweater standing against a white background
Robert McCurdy (born 1952) / Oil on canvas, 2006 / 
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; on loan from Ian and Annette Cumming / © Robert McCurdy