Shotgun, Third Ward #1 is an image of strength and resilience in the face of loss. Children play in a water-soaked street oblivious to the tragedy of the burned-out church behind them. Adults look away, avoiding one another’s eyes and the spectacle of the still-smoldering structure. A rash of church bombings in the early 1960s may have been the initial prompt for this painting. But rather than create an image of outrage, Biggers affirmed the sustaining values of faith, heritage, and community through symbolism: the wheel in the air at the upper right edge summons the biblical story of Ezekiel while the grey-haired woman in red is an emblem of constancy and wisdom.


  • Title: Shotgun, Third Ward #1
  • Creator: John Biggers
  • Date Created: 1966
  • Physical Dimensions: 30 x 48 in. (78.2 x 121.9 cm)
  • Credit Line: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Anacostia Museum, Smithsonian Institution
  • Artist: Born Gastonia, NC 1924 – Died Houston, TX 2001
  • Medium: tempera and oil on canvas

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