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John Wilson Self-Portrait

John Woodrow Wilson, 1922 - 22 Feb 2015
John Woodrow Wilson, 1922 - 22 Feb 2015
Pastel on paper
Sheet: 60.8 × 35.3 cm (23 15/16 × 13 7/8")
Mat (Verified): 81.9 × 56.5 cm (32 1/4 × 22 1/4")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; the Ruth Bowman and Harry Kahn Twentieth-Century American Self-Portrait Collection
Restrictions & Rights
© Estate of John Wilson/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.
Object number
John Woodrow Wilson: American\African American
Exhibition Label
John Wilson born 1922
Racial consciousness, John Wilson has admitted, was a key element of his art. "My experience as a black person has given me a special way of looking at the world," he stated, "and a special identity with others who experience injustice." Wilson was also attracted to the Mexican muralists, whose work, he felt, had a "kind of dense power." The boldness and scale of his self-portraits echo their heroic portrayals and themes of universal humanity. After living in Mexico City, Wilson worked in Chicago, New York, and Boston, where he taught for twenty-three-years. His bold, black pastel of 1963 resonates with the empowerment of the civil rights movement and the consciousness of presenting a black face in white America. He brought these same qualities to the monumental heads sculpted later in his career, including his Martin Luther King at the U.S. Capitol building.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection