Charles Wilbert White, Goodnight Irene, 1952

Look closely at this painting and see if you can tell what is going on in this scene.

Goodnight Irene
Charles Wilbert White, (American 1918-1979). Goodnight Irene, 1952. Oil on canvas. Purchase: acquired through a lead gift provided by Sarah and Landon Rowland through The Ever Glades Fund; major support provided by Lee Lyon, in memory of Joanne Lyon; Sprint; James and Elizabeth Tinsman; Neil D. Karbank; and The Sosland Family; Generous support provided by John and Joanne Bluford; The Stanley H. Durwood Foundation; Gregory M. Glore; Maurice Watson; Anne and Cliff Gall; Dr. Sere and Mrs. MaryJane Myers and Family; Gary and Debby Ballard; Dr. Loretta M. Britton; Catherine L. Futter, in memory of Mathew and Erna Futter; Jean and Moulton Green, Jr., in honor of Rose Bryant; Dr. Willie and Ms. Sandra A. J. Lawrence; Randall and Helen Ferguson; Dr. Valerie E. Chow and Judge Jon R. Gray (Ret.); Gwendolyn J. Cooke, Ph.D.; Dwayne and Freida Crompton; Leodis and N. June Davis; Kimberly C. Young; Tom and Karenbeth Zacharias; Jim Baggett and Marguerite Ermeling; Rose Bryant; Tasha and Julián Zugazagoitia; Antonia Boström and Dean Baker; Sarah Beeks Higdon; Kathleen and Kevin Collison; Katelyn Crawford and John Kupstas; Kimberly Hinkle and Jason Menefee; Stephanie and Brett Knappe; Jan and Michael Schall; and Michele Valentine, in memory of Marcella Hillerman. 2014.28.

There are two people in this painting. The musician is Huddie Lead Belly Ledbetter playing “Goodnight Irene”. 


Listen to the song while you look at the painting.

Who do you think the other person is in the painting? Does the song help explain who they might be?

How would you describe the song?illustrated kiddo playing guitar
Share three adjectives with your friend or family.

How would you describe this painting?
Are the words the same or different?


Charles Wilbert White

Artist Charles Wilbert White believed that art could help bring awareness to social issues and he focused on painting African American identity and experiences. He also spent a lot of time painting African American people with respect and representing them as beautiful, impressive and proud. 

White also painted everyday people. He wanted his art to be “about and for the  people.” 

How would you describe the people in this painting?