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Aaron Douglas, The Judgment Day, 1939, oil on tempered hardboard, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, The Avalon Fund

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The Judgment Day, Douglas (Verbal Description)

At the center of the composition, a powerful black Gabriel stands astride earth and sea, summoning the nations of the world to judgment with his trumpet call.  This 1939 painting is based on an illustration Douglas had created more than a decade earlier to accompany James Weldon Johnson’s popular and influential book of poems titled God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse.  Johnson had been inspired by charismatic black preachers, while Douglas, in turn, was inspired by Johnson’s remarkable poetry.