Dorothea Lange

American (Hoboken, New Jersey, 1895 - 1965, San Francisco, California)

J. R. Butler, President of Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, Memphis, Tennessee

1938
photograph | gelatin silver print
Not on view at this time; find out where you can see works from our collection at locations around the Bay Area while our building is closed for expansion
  • J. R. Butler, President of Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, Memphis, Tennessee

    Dorothea Lange, J. R. Butler, President of Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, Memphis, Tennessee, 1938; gelatin silver print, 9 15/16 in. x 7 15/16 in. (25.24 cm x 20.16 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Frances and John Bowes, Collectors Forum, the Modern Art Council, and Elaine McKeon;


During the Depression, Lange was a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, the government aid agency commonly known as the FSA. She traveled across the country on assignment in the 1930s and 1940s, documenting the conditions under which poor farmers lived and worked.

The Southern Tenant Farmer's Union was formed in response to the exploitative practices of landowners in the 1930s. Its president, J. R. Butler, organized tenant farmers and sharecroppers to protest their inhumane treatment. Although he was repeatedly threatened by landowners, local businessmen, and unsympathetic government officials, Butler was ultimately successful in garnering attention for his cause through much-publicized strikes.

Wide-eyed and exhausted-looking, Butler's peculiar facial expression is made stranger by his shock of uncooperative hair.


9 15/16 in. x 7 15/16 in. (25.24 cm x 20.16 cm)
Acquired 1993
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Frances and John Bowes, Collectors Forum, the Modern Art Council, and Elaine McKeon
93.42

Tags

men, portraits, unions, workers


From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify artwork details.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.