Detail View

The Spectators
Date: ca. 1957
Culture: African-American
Dimensions: image: 36 x 24 in. (91.4 x 61 cm) frame: 44 x 32 x 2 in. (111.8 x 81.3 x 5.1 cm)
Medium: oil on Masonite
Credit Line: Gift of Ronda Stryker, William Johnston, and Michael, Megan, and Annie Johnston
Label Text: Four figures stand on a concrete platform overlooking a bluish-grey body of water on a cloudy day. Light pours in from the right, highlighting their profiles. The painting has a seemingly tranquil, contemplative tone. But take a closer look; are these young men really together? The three white youths are grouped closely while the African American youth is separated by space and a large fissure in the concrete. What else does the artist do to isolate the figure on the right? What might the artist be saying about the relationship between whites and blacks? And what is the significance of the book? Hughie Lee-Smith has been called a Social Realist for his painted scenes of urban and rural realism. Working at a time dominated by the Abstract Expressionists’ quickly painted and colorful canvases, Lee-Smith focused on human figures isolated in open spaces. His quietly powerful and sometimes mysterious paintings challenge the viewer’s perceptions about man and his environment.
Object Number: 2002.7
Currently not on view