Sharecropper

* Nearly 20,000 images of artworks the museum believes to be in the public domain are available to download on this site. Other images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. By using any of these images you agree to LACMA's Terms of Use.

Sharecropper

1952
Prints; linocuts
Linocut
Sheet: 25 1/2 × 19 5/8 in. (64.77 × 49.85 cm) Image: 17 1/2 × 16 5/8 in. (44.45 × 42.23 cm)
Gift of the 2011 American Art Acquisitions Group (M.2011.41)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Sharecropper, first created in 1952, is one of Elizabeth Catlett’s most iconic works....
Sharecropper, first created in 1952, is one of Elizabeth Catlett’s most iconic works. The version acquired for LACMA in 2011, the year before the artist died, is the artist’s proof—the first impression pulled by the artist. Catlett was first introduced to the linoleum cut, or linocut, in 1946, when she apprenticed at El Taller de Gráfica Popular (The People’s Graphic Workshop) in Mexico City. This artists’ collective, of which Catlett was a member from 1946 to 1966, influenced her commitment to create art that would promote social change and be accessible to broad audiences. Prints, in particular linocuts, were the workshop’s specialty and became Catlett’s preferred medium: they were inexpensive, easy to incise, and conducive to publishing large editions. The linocut is also aesthetically appealing for its smooth, uniform, and clean surface qualities. The vivid contrasts of the black and white markings creating the sharecropper’s weathered skin, textured white hair, and broad brimmed straw hat framing her face are direct and vigorous—and contrast with fatigue evident in the eyes and the large safety pin neatly holding her lightweight jacket closed. These details allude to hardships of sharecropping, an exploitative agricultural system that emerged in the U.S. immediately following the Civil War. Catlett’s image does not shy from this history, nor have other American artists since Reconstruction. In fact, Sharecropper demonstrates the persistence of this theme, namely picking cotton, in American art for both African American and Caucasian artists. LACMA’s collection already included examples by Winslow Homer (The Cotton Pickers, 1876), Thomas Hart Benton (Cotton Pickers, 1931), and John Biggers (Cotton Pickers, 1947). However, Catlett’s Sharecropper is now the museum’s most modern image of American sharecroppers, and one of the artist’s innovations was to remove any visual reference to the cotton field or bags. As a result, Catlett’s interpretation appears more universal and heroic, a portrait of the everywoman sharecropper to whom we look up but who does not meet our gaze. (Austen Bailly, Curator American Art)
More...