Coming Home from Work (Primary Title)

John Biggers, American, 1924 - 2001 (Artist)

Oil on canvas
Overall (sight): 40 1/8 × 32 1/4 in. (101.92 × 81.92 cm)
Framed: 47 5/8 × 39 5/8 × 1 7/8 in. (120.97 × 100.65 × 4.76 cm)

An enormously influential painter and educator, John Biggers is well known as a highly accomplished muralist, sculptor, draftsman, and printmaker. He was born in North Carolina, studied at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, received a Ph.D. in art education from Penn State University, and taught at Texas Southern University in Houston. He is particularly renowned for his trenchant portrayals of African American workers, as depicted in Coming Home from Work. Among his labor imagery, this painting stands out for the efforts the artist made to bring the worker’s experience into the observer’s space. Using expressive coloration and multiple framing elements, as well as turning the figure’s back to the viewer, Biggers suggests that the laborer is the surrogate for all those who repeat her gaze.

Coming Home from Work depicts a woman sandwiched between two wooden shanties, pausing as she walks from the compressed foreground along a path depicted in fiery red hues. Coloration is important in the work; glowing purples and recurring greens, blacks, silvers, and grays highlight the specific and individualized nature of figure and setting alike. The stockings, dress, and jacket reveal the figure’s anatomy and point to the arduousness of simply walking home after a long day’s work (the sloping red lines suggest a tilted plane the woman must ascend). Some of the symbolism is more literal, however: the nearly depleted bag she holds, the hanging pan and empty pail, and the outhouse with open door all point to a life of difficulty.

Signed at lower left: "Biggers 10 '44"
J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art
20/20: Twenty 20th Century Visionary Artists, Forum Gallery, New York, July 7 - August 12, 2016.

Building Community: The African American Scene, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, January 13 - March 11, 2006.

John Biggers: My America, The 1940's & 1950's - Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, November 5, 2004 - January 8, 2005; and New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, January 22, 2005 - March 13, 2005.

The Art of John Biggers: View from the Upper Room, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, April 2 - September 3, 1995; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, October 15, 1995 - January 14, 1996; and Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, May 19 - July 14, 1996.

[incomplete title on label] Exh____, Paintings, Sculpture and Prints ____ro Art___s, Atlanta University, Atlanta, George, April 6 - May 4, 1947.

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