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William H. Johnson: An American Modern (Jacob Lawrence Series on American Artists) [Paperback]

Richard J. Powell

Price: 17.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 Oct 2011 Jacob Lawrence Series on American Artists
An essential figure in modern American art, William H. Johnson (1901-1970) was a virtuoso skilled in various media and techniques, who produced thousands of works over a career that spanned decades, continents, and genres. This volume considers paintings from the collection of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, that show the pivotal stages in Johnson's career as a modernist painter of post-impressionist and expressionist works reminiscent of Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Soutine, and the vernacular paintings in which he articulates his specific, unforgettable voice as an artist. 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. Richard J. Powell is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University. Other contributors are Aaron Bryant, David C. Driskell, Leslie King-Hammond, and Lowery Stokes Sims.

Product details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press (6 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295991488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295991481
  • Product Dimensions: 25.4 x 20.6 x 1.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,946,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"My aim is to express in a natural way what I feel, what is in me, both rhythmically and spiritually, all that which in time has been saved up in my family of primitiveness and tradition, and which is now concentrated in me." --William H. Johnson

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars neglected master 11 Oct 2013
By R. Hardway - Published on Amazon.com
This brief volume (118 pp) is actually a companion guide to a Smithsonian traveling exhibition of a few selected pieces by the black American painter William Henry Johnson (1901-1970). Johnson, who spent most of his career in France and Denmark due to the lack of opportunity for black artists in the United States, worked in a variety of mediums. His best known works are oils, many of which were done on stretched burlap sacks. Johnson began his career in France as an expressionist, strongly influenced by German expressionists of the 1920s. Johnson worked contemporaneously with artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Munch, and his works show that he was familiar with their styles of expression. In the late 1930s he returned to the United States where he began painting in a primitive style, illustrating the traditional life of black Americans, mostly in his native South Carolina. Johnson was hospitalized the last twenty-three years of his life and painted nothing after the late 1940s. A huge collection of canvases was recovered from storage a few years before Johnson's death and over 1400 of his paintings were bequeathed to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The twenty paintings featured in this volume are part of the permanent collection at the Lewis Art Museum of Morgan State University. The fascinating story of how these paintings were discovered, recovered, and preserved, as well as their importance to American painting and international art history, is told through a series of essays by leading American art experts: Aaron Bryant, David Driskell, Leslie King-Hammond, Lowry Stokes Sims, and Richard J. Powell. An American Modern is a valuable addition to American art bibliography despite its brevity and limited coverage of an artist whose reputation can only increase. As more of Johnson's works become visible to the American public, appreciation of his vision and his contribution, not just to African-American art, but American art in general, is growing rapidly. In April 2012 the USPS issued a commemorative postage stamp recognizing Johnson as part of its American Treasures Series. An American Modern is a good introduction to William Henry Johnson. Remember,though, there are about a thousand other Johnson works not illustrated in this volume. But, we had to start somewhere, and this is a great beginning.
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