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Desert Forms

A work made of oil on masonite.

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  • A work made of oil on masonite.




Hughie Lee-Smith
American, 1915–1999

About this artwork

Hughie Lee-Smith painted intriguing compositions that depict enigmatic figures situated in bleak landscapes. In Desert Forms, there is no hint as to the nature of the relationship between the walking woman and the distant man. The artist linked the starkness of his imagery to his experience as an African American man, later recalling, “Unconsciously it has a lot to do with a sense of alienation … and in all blacks there is an awareness of their isolation from the mainstream of society.” But the uncertainty presented by Desert Forms can also be interpreted more broadly as symptomatic of the modern human condition. The figures are anonymous and disconnected from each other, facing an austere and insecure world. Lee-Smith thus made a powerful statement about the loneliness that can be experienced by any human, black or white.

On View

American Art, Gallery 262


Hughie Lee-Smith


Desert Forms




Oil on Masonite


45.7 × 60.1 cm (18 × 24 in.)

Credit Line

American Art Sales Proceeds Fund; through prior acquisitions of Charles S. Peterson Purchase Prize and Charles D. Ettinger funds, and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick G. Wacker Jr. Endowment Fund

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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