William Henry Johnson (1901-1970)
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An African American painter, William Johnson, was born in Florence, South Carolina. After moving to New York at age 17, Johnson earned money by working odd jobs to be able to afford an art education at the National Academy of Design in New York. He spent the late 1920's in France studying modernism. He married a Dutch artist in 1930, and spent much of the next decade in Scandinavia where he became interested in primitivism and folk art. Throughout his eclectic career in painting, Johnson moved from realism to expressionism to folk, focusing on the African American experience. After suffering from a serious illness, Johnson donated all of his work to the National Museum of American Art, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Johnson’s works were exhibited at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2006 and Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in 2007.