William H. Johnson began painting religious scenes in the 1940s, after he lost his wife, Holcha, to cancer. Here, the light-skinned Christ with a neatly trimmed beard may symbolize the artist, still wounded from the loss of his companion. Three women in brightly printed cotton shifts raise their hands in stylized gestures that evoke African mourning rites, and the ladders, which appear in European scenes of the Crucifixion, also bring to mind African American spirituals like “Jacob’s Ladder.” In Lamentation, Johnson filtered his personal grief through centuries of European art, African traditions, and the public expression of faith in African American churches

Other objects by this creator in this institution
Objects by this creator in other institutions