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Audio Stop 954

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The spruce-green silhouette of a broad-shouldered man standing among palm fronds looks up at a faint red star against a field of green circles radiating out from the horizon in this abstracted vertical painting. The scene is made with mostly flat areas of color to create silhouettes in shades of slate and indigo blue, lemon-lime and pea green, plum purple, and brick red. To our right of center, the man faces our left in profile. His eye is a slit and he has tight curly hair. The position of his feet, standing on a coffin-shaped, brick-red box, indicate his back is to us. He stands with legs apart and his arms by his sides. Terracotta-orange shackles around his writs are linked with a black chain. A woman to our left, perhaps kneeling, holds her similarly shackled hands up overhead. A line of shackled people with their heads bowed move away from this pair, toward wavy lines indicating water in the distance. The water is pine green near the shore and lightens, in distinct bands, to asparagus green on the horizon. On our left, two, tall pea-green ships sail close to each other at the horizon, both titled at an angle to our right. Concentric circles radiate out from the horizon next to the ships to span the entire painting, subtly altering the color of the silhouettes it encounters. To our left, a buttercup-yellow beam shines from the red star in the sky across the canvas, overlapping the man’s face. Spruce-blue palm trees grow to our right while plum-purple palm fronds and leaves in smoke gray and blood red frame the painting along the left corners and edge. The artist signed the painting in the lower right, in black, “AARON DOUGLAS.”

oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase and partial gift from Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., The Evans-Tibbs Collection)
© 2021 Heirs of Aaron Douglas / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Audio courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Aaron Douglas

Into Bondage, 1936

West Building, Main Floor - Gallery 79

Afro-Atlantic Histories