Oh, Mary, Don’t You Weep, 1956
Graphite and pen and ink on paper
39¼ x 41½ inches
Signed and dated lower right
Oh Mary Don’t You Weep is a beautifully drawn image conveying the strength and dignity of two women. It is characteristic of Charles White’s oeuvre in its monumentality, monochrome tonality, subtle gradations of shading and texture, and the idea of a larger spiritual purpose embodied in ordinary human experience. It also simultaneously reveals the influence of White’s newfound West Coast milieu and his affinity for the Southern roots of African American culture: Though he grew up in Chicago and lived most of his adult life in New York, White moved to California in 1956 in an attempt to improve his failing health. There, he found himself among actors, musicians, and social activists who supported, and sometimes appeared in, his work. One of these confreres, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, recorded a version of the traditional spiritual “Oh, Mary, Don’t You Weep” the same year White created this deeply affecting drawing.