Augusta Christine (Fells) Savage, Portrait Head of John Henry, about 1940

Plaster bust of a young Black man looking straight ahead with a reserved expression.

Patinated plaster. The John Axelrod Collection—Frank B. Bemis Fund, Charles H. Bayley Fund, and The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection.

As a Black woman, Augusta Savage overcame numerous obstacles in her career, advocating for herself and other Black artists in the process. Her Portrait Head of John Henry is part of an emergence of naturalistic portrayals of Black men in the middle of the 20th century. Black men were often stereotyped and caricatured, but Savage’s work is a realistic and dignified depiction. As America modernized and jazz became synonymous with US culture, artists like Savage catalyzed a shift in the perception of Black people: where they were once parodied, they started to be humanized.