ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota

Art and Artists
 Africa, Sierra Leone
 Chuck Close
 James Ensor
 Frank Gehry
 Robert Gwathmey
 Marsden Hartley
 Pepón Osorio
 James Rosenquist
 Ernest Whiteman

Inner Worlds What is Art?  Environment  Designing Spaces and Places
Robert Gwathmey
Gwathmey, Nobody Here Calls Me CitizenClick to larger image
Robert Gwathmey
Nobody Around Here Calls Me Citizen, 1943
oil on canvas
14 1/2 x 17 in.

About the Art

Robert Gwathmey was once asked if he was a "social artist." He replied, "I'm a social being and I don't see how you can be an artist and be separate....Artists have eyes...You go home. You see things that are almost forgotten. It's always shocking."

For Gwathmey, home was Virginia, and he devoted his career as a painter to showing the identity, aspirations, and contributions of African Americans and the failure of American society to recognize them.

Gwathmey's paintings, such as Nobody Around Here Calls Me Citizen, tell stories about individual African Americans living in the South in the 1940s, but they also use symbols to convey a larger message. Gwathmey believed that by simplifying a composition to its essentials and using symbolic abstraction, the message of his work could be most strongly communicated. He said, "I believe that in painting the use of limited imagery is the best method of presentation of your content. I believe that if the symbols are strong enough and simple enough and inventive enough, they can transcend the literary in painting."

In the 1940s, Gwathmey pointed to the invention of photography as a liberating influence in art because cameras can make realistic images so the painter no longer has to. He also believed Pablo Picasso was an important influence to modern art because, through his use of abstraction and experimentation, he gave artists a new way of looking at the world.

Vocabulary Terms

symbols--Usually an image that stands for an idea or object.

[ Return to the TOP of the page ]

Themes, Resources, Participants, Sitemap, Help

Discussion/Activities, About the Artist, About the Art, Teacher Lessons

Inner Worlds | What Is Art? | Environment | Designing Spaces and Places | Identity
About the Art | About the Artist | Discussion Questions/Activities | Teacher Lessons