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A head and shoulders portrait of a Black soldier in front of window.

The head and shoulders painting is of a Black solder in front of an open window which shows an urban street view. The head of the soldier is angled slightly to the right, but his eyes look forward. He is wearing a garrison cap, a shirt and tie with an olive drab uniform jacket that has gold buttons with an insignia and round pins on each lapel. A ribbon bar is over the pocket on the right. He is seated in front of a window with a view of a street lined with buildings over his right shoulder.

Gallery Text

Robert Smullyan Sloan was drafted into the army in 1943 and stationed in New York, where he illustrated educational materials for the armed services and produced posters for the U.S. Treasury’s war bond campaign. In this painstakingly detailed composition reminiscent of early Flemish painting, he portrays a U.S. Army private wearing a dress uniform with ribbons designating a Good Conduct Medal and participation in the European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign. The artist’s title, however, accords him only the designation of his race, using the language of that historical moment.

African Americans fought a two-front battle during World War II, facing enemies overseas and racism at home. The view out the window in Sloan’s work alludes to the distinguished soldier’s dreary prospects upon his return to the gritty urban environment of 125th Street in Harlem.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Robert Smullyan Sloan, American (New York, NY 1915 - 2013 Boston, MA)
Negro Soldier
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1320, Modern and Contemporary Art, Social Realism
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Physical Descriptions

Egg tempera and oil on board
68 x 58 cm (26 3/4 x 22 13/16 in.)
framed: 67 x 56.8 x 4.5 cm (26 3/8 x 22 3/8 x 1 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks