Hands Resting on Tool

Object Details


Hands Resting on Tool


Tina Modotti (American, born Italy, 1896 - 1942)




Mexico (Place created)




Palladium print


19.7 x 21.6 cm (7 3/4 x 8 1/2 in.)

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The worker's worn, dusty hands rest upon the handle of his tool, against a backdrop of his soiled work clothes. Although shown here in repose, the hands are a powerful symbol of a life of hard manual labor. The worker paused here for Tina Modotti's camera, not letting go of the tool and thus suggesting an imminent resumption of work. Modotti, a devoted Communist, was sympathetic to the plight of the laborer in her adopted Mexico, and her photograph serves as an anonymous but respectful depiction of all those in the peasant class for whom survival is a daily struggle.

Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA, (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
Tina Modotti: Photographs (September 16, 1995 to June 2, 1996)
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, (Philadelphia), September 16 to November 26, 1995
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, December 17, 1995 to February 25, 1996
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, (San Francisco), March 28 to June 2, 1996
Capturing Time: A Celebration of Photographs (December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998
Manuel Alvarez Bravo: Optical Parables (November 13, 2001 to February 9, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 13, 2001 to February 17, 2002
  • Museo Nacional de Arte, (Mexico City), March 14 to June 2, 2002
  • Walker Art Center, (Minneapolis), November 10, 2002 to February 9, 2003
Edward Weston: Enduring Vision (July 31 to November 25, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 31 to November 25, 2007
Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910 - 1940 (July 6 to September 29, 2013) (44)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), July 6 to September 29, 2013
Education Resources

Education Resource




People at Work

Students create a work of art and write a story based on a photograph and photograph their own hands with tools.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts


Long-Term Unit