David and Goliath

William H. Johnson, David and Goliath, 1944. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

This painting by William H. Johnson (1901–70) portrays the mythical biblical battle between David and the giant Goliath. In the biblical tale, David defeats Goliath by strategically using a slingshot to hit Goliath between the eyes, an evocative story of the seemingly weak foe outwitting the stronger one. Johnson places this biblical tale in a modern-day context by dressing the figures in contemporary, athletic-style clothing and making both figures appear to be urban African American males. In the sports industry, the tale of David and Goliath is often used to describe a weaker opponent succeeding against a stronger one. The artist depicts the figures in a primitive, naïve style, with bright, colorful, flat hues reinforcing the primitive, folk-painting style.  

William H. Johnson, David and Goliath, 1944.

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