William H. Johnson is known as one of the great artists of the 20th Century. We recently learned about this talented artist and we wanted to share his story, provide some links to additional information about this artist and showcase some samples of his artwork to our community.
William H. Johnson was born in Florence, SC and studied art with Charles Hawthorne at the National Academy of Design in New York City. He also studied at the Cape Cod School of Art in Massachussets. Mr. Johnson perfected his craft in Europe, especially Norway and Denmark, after his teacher gave him $1000.00 to travel and study overseas. While in Europe he created hunderds of pieces of art, developed a strong reputation as an artist and got married to Denmark textile artist, Holcha Krake.
Despite his enormous potential and growing fame, William’s life took a turn for the worst after his wife died from Breast Cancer in 1944. The grief from her death was hard for him to bear. During the years after her death, he worked as a laborer at the Navy Yards in New York before being admitted to Central Islip State Hospital. At the hospital he was treated for syphilis-induced paresis before succombing to the disease and making his transition in 1970.
A large amount of his artwork was donated to National Museum of Art after his death and some was also given to family members and friends. Below you can find some samples of the artist’s work, links to additional resources and a link to a new book about William H. Johnson!
Selected William H. Johnson Artwork
Purchase the New Book
In this lavishly illustrated book, some of the world’s premier scholars of William H. Johnson and African American art history examine the artist and his artistic genius in fresh new ways, including his relationship with one of his earliest patrons, the Harmon Foundation; the critical role played by scholars at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities; the context of Johnson’s experiences living in Harlem and his deep southern roots; and Johnson as a trailblazer in the genres of still life and landscape painting.