Heward produced many paintings of black women, but Hester is remarkable for being her only adult black female subject who is named in the title.
Heward owned a copy of George Bernard Shaw’s 1932 book of short stories The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God. In the title story the protagonist questions white authority. The book may point to some of the racial issues Heward was thinking about when painting black subjects. Still, it is worth asking whether we can imagine Heward painting a white female nude against this background and in this pose.