"Sharecropper" by Marie Atkinson Hull Marie Atkinson Hull (1890–1980)
Oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 22 inches
Museum purchase; 1994.017

During the 1930s, the Great Depression raged, creating crippling poverty and widespread unemployment in America, especially in regions such as the Deep South and the Midwest. American artists such as Marie Hull chose to represent the people of these hard times. Commissions were scarce and, in order to continue working, Hull paid sharecroppers and the rural poor to pose for her portraits.

In Sharecropper, Hull portrayed the plight of a farmer whose lined and weathered face and gnarled hands reveal a life spent toiling in the fields behind him. His never-ending tie to the land is echoed in the similarity of colors used to depict the farmer and his livelihood. This is a man supported and owned by the land he works. As a sharecropper who rents the land he works in exchange for a percentage of the crop he produces, regardless of his success, the farmer seems to know he will forever be bound to this unforgiving lifestyle. Still, his piercing blue eyes suggest his resilient character.