Portrait of My Grandmother by Archibald John Motley Junior, painted in 1922. Oil on canvas. The painted surface is just over 3 feet high by about 2 feet wide.
This description is about 2 minutes long.
An older Black woman wearing a white blouse and apron sits facing us with her hands in her lap. She is shown from the lap up, against a dove gray background. Tones of gray and white predominate. They form a contrast with her warm brown skin and touches of black on her hair and skirt.
The woman’s black hair is graying along her hairline. It’s parted down the center, and pulled back so it closely frames her head in rippling waves. Her face is narrow, with a pointed chin. Deep set brown eyes under thin, raised black brows meet ours directly. Her forehead is lined with horizontal wrinkles. Darker shades of brown create shadows along her gaunt cheeks, emphasizing the fleshy pouches to either side of her straight nose. Deep lines connect her nose and narrow, slightly pursed lips. The skin on her chin is puckered with deep creases that radiate out from the corners of the mouth. The tendons on her slender neck stand out.
She wears a white blouse with buttons down the front. At her throat, just below the neckline, is a black, heart-shaped brooch with a red dot at the center. The crisp, three-quarter length sleeves stop short of her thin wrists. A white apron is tucked around her waist over a black skirt. Her hands, with raised veins and long, slender fingers, rest against the soft white cloth of the apron. She wears a gold ring on the fourth finger of her left hand.
Her shadow falls behind her and to the right against the pale gray background.