Conflict and Adversity

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Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.” – Martin Luther King Jr., 1968

Conflict and adversity are recurring themes throughout American history. Here, conflict is defined as the opposition between those opposed to the actions, reactions, or motivations of another entity. For example, the Union against the Confederate States during the Civil War. Adversity is considered social evils or discrimination practiced by a society against a minority. For instance, the experiences and forced segregation faced by Japanese Americans during World War II. The collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum demonstrates this far-reaching theme in many of its artworks. From some of the earliest artworks dating to the American Revolution, to some of the most recent artworks which address the events that transpired on September 11, 2001. In each of the following artworks we will explore how artists responded to these themes of conflict and adversity in their artwork.

Click on an artwork to learn more about how that artwork connects to the theme of Conflict and Adversity.


Adversity: Man versus Society

Tecumseh 001

Pigeon's Egg Head

Old Mistress

Eviction CROP

Bar and Grill





Off to War1964.1.36 007Brownstone Dinnerstein

Farm Altar


Brownies of the Southwest

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Conflict: Man versus Man



Mrs Smith

Capture of the Macedonian

Girl I Left Behind Me


Old Mistress



Letter From Overseas

Untitled Hercules