Benny Andrews, American, 1920 - 2006



Oil on canvas with painted fabric collage

Overall: 48 × 48 in. (121.9 × 121.9 cm)

Frame: 49 13/16 × 49 13/16 in. (126.5 × 126.5 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through gifts from Evelyn A. and William B. Jaffe, Class of 1964H; Kent M. Klineman, Class of 1954; and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph H. Hazen, by exchange



Place Made: United States, North America


20th century

Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


Signed and dated, in black paint, lower right: BENNY ANDREWS-68; titled, signed and dated, on reverse: "WITNESS" / Benny Andrews / 1968


The subject in Witness is a fighter whose gravitas stems from surviving the hardship of everyday life for a black American woman in the first half of the twentieth century. Her gaunt face and thin, ropy arms suggest someone who is elderly and worn. The rough cloth that defines her face and garments evoke the fabrics that Andrews himself recalls being dressed in as a child, including repurposed seed and fertilizer sacks. This coarseness contributes to the authenticity and pride in her bearing.

Andrews never distinguished art from activism, depicting African American life from a well of personal experience and advocating publicly for African American artists. As the title Witness suggests, the painting testifies to a life defined by defiance derived from the power of seeing and surviving. The fact that Andrews chose as his subject in Witness a single anonymous figure representing everyday African American life strengthens one of the powerful social messages of his work: that depicting blackness in America was in itself subversive.

From the 2019 exhibition Entrance Gallery, curated by John R. Stomberg Ph.D, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director

Course History

AAAS 67.5, GEOG 21.01, Black Consciousness and Black Feminisms, Abigail Neely, Winter 2019

SART 31/SART 72, Painting II/Painting III, Colleen Randall, Spring 2020

AAAS 7.05, Imagining Black Freedom in America since the Civil War, Julie Rabig, Spring 2020

WRIT 03.05, US History, Immigration, and Native Peoples, Douglas Moody, Winter 2021

WRIT 03.05, US History, Immigration, and Native Peoples, Douglas Moody, Winter 2021

AAAS 88.19, Contemporary African-American Artists, Michael Chaney, Summer 2021

WRIT 3, Composition and Research II, Doug Moody, Winter 2022

SART 31/SART 72, Painting II/III, Colleen Randall, Spring 2022

SART 25.01, Painting I, Danielle Genadry, Summer 2022

HIST 10.04/AAAS 20.02, Dartmouth Black Lives, Julia Rabig and Darryl Barthe, Fall 2022

Writing Program 3.06, Composition and Research II, Doug Moody, Winter 2023

Studio Art 31.01/72.01, Painting II/III, Colleen Randall, Spring 2023

Exhibition History

Entrance Gallery, Luise and Morton Kaish Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, April 10-August 11, 2019.

Publication History

Earnestine Jenkins, Celeste-Marie Bernier, and Alaina Simone, Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial, Memphis, TN: Dixon Gallery & Gardens in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2023, ill. p. 25, fig. 9.


The artist (1920-2006), Brooklyn, New York; to his wife, Nene Humphrey, Brooklyn, New York; Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, New York; sold to present collection, 2015.

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