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WILLIAM H. JOHNSON ART GALLERY

By almost any standard, William H. Johnson can be considered a major American artist. He produced hundreds of works in a virtuosic, eclectic career that spanned several decades as well as several continents. It was not until very recently, however, that his work began to receive the attention it deserves.

Born in South Carolina to a poor African-American family, Johnson moved to New York at age seventeen. Working a variety of jobs, he saved enough money to pay for an art education at the prestigious National Academy of Design. He spent the late 1920s in France where the influence of European style was evident in his style. He got married in 1930 and the couple spent most of the '30s in Scandinavia, where he developed an interest in primitivism and folk art. Returning to the U.S. in 1938, Johnson immersed himself in the traditions of Afro-America, producing work characterized by its stunning, eloquent, folk art simplicity. He was also a well-established part of the African-American artistic community during the Harlem Renaissance. Although Johnson enjoyed a certain degree of success as an artist in this country and abroad, financial security remained elusive. Following his wife's death in 1944, Johnson's physical and mental health declined dramatically. In a tragic conclusion to a life of immense creativity, Johnson spent his last twenty-three years in a mental hospital on Long Island.

After his death, his entire life's work was almost disposed of to save storage fees, but it was rescued by friends at the last moment. Over a thousand paintings by Johnson are now part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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Breakdown by William H. Johnson Cotton Pickers by William H. Johnson Deep South by William H. Johnson Farm Family Nursing by William H. Johnson
Breakdown
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Cotton Pickers
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Deep South
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Farm Family Nursing
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Mini Print Mini Print Mini Print Mini Print
Sowing by William H. Johnson
Sowing
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Mini Print