Porter painted Soldado Senegales, a portrait of expatriate Senegalese dancer Feral Benga, in 1935 while in France on sabbatical leave from Howard University. Rather than picture the West African in one of his flamboyant dance moves, Porter posed him in the khaki uniform and fez of a French colonial soldier. It is a distinctly modernist painting and a subtle comment on European colonial occupation in Africa during the early years of the twentieth century. The striated red background and thin black lines that outline Benga’s shoulders emphasize the shallowness of the pictorial space. The touches of green that highlight the sitter’s forehead recall the canvases of Henri Matisse.


  • Title: Soldado Senegales
  • Creator: James A. Porter
  • Date Created: 1935
  • Physical Dimensions: 18 1/4 x 14 1/8 in. (46.3 x 35.8 cm)
  • Credit Line: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Anacostia Museum, Smithsonian Institution
  • Artist: Born Baltimore, MD 1905 – Died Washington, D.C. 1970
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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