Kansas-born Aaron Douglas was the leading visual artist of the Harlem Renaissance, the great flowering of the arts in 1920s and 1930s in New York’s predominately African American neighborhood. Rendered in Douglas’s flat, silhouetted style and with lavender and yellow-gold hues, this work depicts the Old Testament story about God’s order to Moses to lead the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. Ministers, abolitionists, and politicians from the nineteenth-century through the Civil Rights era have related this story to the oppression of African Americans. Light symbolizing God’s command radiates down and envelops the kneeling figure of Moses. Douglas derived this composition from a design he created in 1927 for God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, a collaboration with author and activist James Weldon Johnson (see Additional Images).
Inscription: Signed (lower left): A. Douglas
the artist (until 1978; in 1978 to private collection); private collection, Rhode Island (1978–2015; sold in 2015, through Alexandre Gallery, New York, to MMA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Two Centuries of Black American Art," September 30–November 21, 1976, no. 98 (lent by the artist).
Atlanta. High Museum of Art. "Two Centuries of Black American Art," January 8–February 20, 1977, no. 98.
Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas. "Two Centuries of Black American Art," March 30–May 15, 1977, no. 98.
Brooklyn Museum. "Two Centuries of Black American Art," June 25–August 21, 1977, no. 98.
Randall Griffey in "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 2014–2016." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 74 (Fall 2016), p. 78, ill. (color).