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Alabama Cotton Tenant Farmer's Wife

Black and white photograph of women, lips pursed, against wood paneled wall.

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  • Black and white photograph of women, lips pursed, against wood paneled wall.


1936, printed c. 1962


Walker Evans
American, 1903–1975

About this artwork

“Unrelieved, bare-faced, revelatory fact,” read the monograph that accompanied Walker Evans’s photographs when many of them were displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1938. Taken during the preceding two years, while he traveled throughout the South for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) under the direction of Roy Stryker, these images document the plight of the rural poor during the Depression. With clinical precision and a fastidious reserve, Evans photographed main streets, storefronts, hand-painted signs, gas stations, abandoned buildings, and automobiles. He took pictures of tenant farmers’ homes—their kitchens, beds, bureau drawers, and fireplaces—with and without their occupants. Taken for Fortune magazine while Evans, on leave from the FSA, was traveling with the writer James Agee, this famous photograph shows a tenant farmer’s wife standing outside her house. With patient dignity, she looks straight at the viewer, a shy half-smile on her lips. This work is part of a remarkable collaboration with Agee published in the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). As one of the nation’s finest documentary photographers, Evans continued this exacting and lucid description of American culture throughout his career.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Walker Evans


Alabama Cotton Tenant Farmer's Wife


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1936


Gelatin silver print


No markings recto or verso


Image/paper: 21 × 17 cm (8 5/16 × 6 3/4 in.); Mount: 45.7 × 35.6 cm (18 × 14 1/16 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Mrs. James Ward Thorne

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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