Jan 22, 2014 — Feb 1, 2015
A native of Florence, South Carolina, William H. Johnson (1901—1970) studied in New York City with highly regarded painter, Charles Hawthorne. In 1926 Johnson settled in Paris, where he experimented with French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles, using bright, high-key colors and deliberate brushstrokes. These early European works highlighted his eager assimilation of the many styles characterizing the modern School of Paris. While working in southern France, Johnson met Holcha Krake, a Danish weaver. The pair married in 1930 and made their home in Kerteminde, Denmark, a fishing village that is the subject of several paintings in the Museum’s collection. Five years later, the couple moved to Norway, where Johnson explored the dynamic effects of the midnight sun.
William and Holcha Johnson left Europe for New York City in 1938 just ahead of World War II. Upon his return to America, Johnson abandoned his earlier stylistic adaptations of European modernism and created a new, more personal approach, depicting African-Americans in compositions characterized by bold colors and flattened, patterned forms.
The Wayne and Carolyn Jones Charitable Foundation has made significant donations to the Museum’s collection of William H. Johnson paintings, providing a comprehensive survey of the artist’s career.