Johnson painted Brothers in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains outside Charlottesville, Virginia. The boys’ overalls and bare feet, and the angled picket fence that blocks recessive space, locate them in a small-town setting. During his career, Johnson moved easily between explorations of modernist composition and what was then known as “racial art”—art that paid homage to contemporary African American life and its ancestral roots. The children’s faces show no emotion; the only hint of their relationship comes through the placement of the younger boy, who leans against the protective shoulder of his stronger, older brother.


  • Title: Brothers
  • Creator: Malvin Gray Johnson
  • Date Created: 1934
  • Physical Dimensions: 38 x 30 in. (96.5 x 76.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation
  • Artist: Born Greensboro, NC 1896 – Died New York City 1934
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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