Crowd Watching Marian Anderson

Object Details

James Amos Porter
mid 20th Century
graphite, watercolor, ink, gouache on paper
14 × 10 15/16 in. (35.5 × 27.8 cm)
This watercolor commemorates singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial, after she was refused a venue at Constitutional Hall due to its segregationist policies.
James A. Porter depicts this seminal moment in the burgeoning civil rights movement by focusing on the audience. Anderson stands in the background of the watercolor; her only identifiable feature is her fur coat. The foreground shows the backs of a colorful, multiracial crowd gathered at the steps of the monument. The absence of faces in the painting—even Lincoln’s is hidden behind a column—focuses attention on the importance of the collective, rather than any one individual. A small thumbnail sketch on the right may have been the initial composition of the scene. According to the artist’s daughter, his wife was on the organizing committee for Anderson’s concert, so he may have felt a personal connection to this event.
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