They Could Still Serve

They Could Still Serve is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, New York in the United States. They Could Still Serve represents Gallagher's biggest focused body of work: large scale pieces that explore racial stereotypes of African Americans, specifically those seen in minstrel shows.

They Could Still Serve
They Could Still Serve -Gallagher.jpg
ArtistEllen Gallagher
MediumPigment and synthetic polymer on paper mounted on canvas
Dimensions304.8 cm × 243.8 cm (120.0 in × 96.0 in)
LocationMuseum of Modern Art, New York City


Penmanship paper is glued on a canvas with tiny googly eyeballs drawn throughout the piece, primarily on the lines of the penmanship paper.[1]


This painting was acquired in 2001 by using funds from Emily and Jerry Spiegel and Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro Funds and gift of Agnes Gund.[1] They Could Still Serve has been exhibited in numerous group shows as MoMA. In 2007, it was included in Comic Abstraction: Image-Breaking, Image-Making because of the cartoonish style of the eyeballs. In 2008, the piece was in Multiplex: Directions in Art, 1970 to Now and in 2010-2011's On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century.[1][2][3]

Insight about the workEdit

The name, They Could Still Serve, comes from an etching in The Disasters of War series by Francisco de Goya.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "They Could Still Serve". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  2. ^ Roxana Marcoci (2007). Comic Abstraction: Image Breaking, Image Making. The Museum of Modern Art. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-0-87070-709-4.
  3. ^ Cornelia H. Butler; M. Catherine de Zegher; Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) (2010). On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century. The Museum of Modern Art. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-87070-782-7.

Further readingEdit

  • Varnedoe, Kirk. Modern Contemporary. New York: The Museum of Modern Art (2004). ISBN 0870704915