An Analysis of Robert Gwathmey’s “The Portrait of a Farmer’s Wife”

“The Portrait of a Farmer’s Wife,” the work of artist Robert Gwathmey, has been housed at the
Dallas Museum of Art since around 1951. The overall size of the painting is 23 x 19 3/8 inches, composed oncanvas with oil paints. Gwathmey’s painting depicts an old black woman sitting on a chair. She looks tired, which I could determine by noting her timeworn face and her old hands which are resting upon her knees. At her right side, a humble pot of yellow wildflowers sits on a twig table, which expresses the search for small beauties in a lifetime of hard work. The two figures of the old woman and the table are placed against an empty orange background. This painting was created in a unique style that combined a two-dimensional flatness with deep and vivid colors.
“The Portrait of a Farmer’s Wife” is one of Gwathmey’s most famous paintings. The mood this painting sends to the audience is that of simplicity, and the content of the piece can be clearly understood. Gwathmey created this painting using strong, heavy, black outlines, shallow space, bold colors, paired patterns, and sharpangles. Because of his emotive and sensitive style of painting along with his heart for disadvantaged African Americans, he was known as thefirst white American painter to describe the southern blacks with dignity and in respectful manner.His works reflect his deep empathy for the plight of African Americans.
Robert Gwathmey (1903-1988) was an American artist who became famous during the 1940’s for his paintings that depict southern black field laborers. He was deeply committed to the idea that art could influence morality, improve the lives of less fortunate people, specifically African Americans, and that art could offer a statement of hope.Robert was intimately familiar with the lives of poor African American farmers. Since he was born in Virginia, Gwathmey witnessed conditions of poverty and segregation that were then prevalent. H…

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