This painting by Benny Andrews shows a character in blue holding a fruit

Benny Andrews

American, 1930–2006

Beholden, 1963

Oil and collage on canvas

25 x 18¼ inches

Signed and dated lower right

Born into a family of sharecroppers, Andrews depicted the inequity and hardship of minorities—the African American community specifically. He was a vivid storyteller, relying on memories of growing up in the segregated South to create narrative-based works that address human suffering and injustice. Over his lifetime, his social concerns ranged from the civil rights struggle and the antiwar movement to the Holocaust, poverty, and the forced relocation of American Indians.

Andrews arrived at the collage technique he would become known for in the 1960s. He combined scraps of cloth and paper with paint on canvas, which gave his work the “sense of rawness” he wanted to convey. Beholden exemplifies the power of this approach. Of this work Andrews said, “I set out to show the importance of food to sustaining life. I was inspired by the plight of poor people who have to spend so much time and energy in obtaining the very basic necessities of life. I wanted the person to be both reaching out to the viewer with the orange and pulling in with it.”

This painting by Benny Andrews shows a character in blue holding a fruit