William H. Johnson: An American Modern

February 16, 2013 - May 12, 2013
Virginia and Alfred Kennedy and Philip Henry Alston Jr. Galleries

William Henry Johnson (1901–1970) is a pivotal figure in modern American art. A virtuoso skilled in various media and techniques, he produced thousands of works over a career that spanned decades, continents and genres. Now, on view in its entirety for the first time, a seminal collection covering key stages in Johnson’s career will be presented in "William H. Johnson: An American Modern." Developed by Baltimore’s James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Morgan State University, this Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition represents a unique opportunity to share the artist’s oeuvre with a broader audience. This exhibition of 20 expressionist and vernacular landscapes, still-life paintings and portraits investigates the intricate layers of Johnson’s diverse cultural perspective as an artist and self-described “primitive and cultured painter.” An exhibition catalogue, funded in part by the Henry Luce Foundation, features essays by such noted scholars as David C. Driskell, on such topics as primitivism, modernism and African American art; African American artists and the art historical canon; identity and aesthetics in art; and art and art scholarship at historically black colleges and universities.

"William H. Johnson: An American Modern" was developed by Morgan State University and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Henry Luce Foundation and the Morgan State University Foundation, Inc. Additional support for this exhibition was provided by Ford Motor Company Fund.


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William H. Johnson (American 1907–1970)
Aunt Alice (detail), ca. 1944
Oil on compressed board
33 3/4 x 28 5/8 inches
Collection of Morgan State University

This page:

William H. Johnson (American 1907–1970)
Sowing (detail), ca. 1940
Gouache and pencil
18 3/4 x 22 1/8  inches
Collection of Morgan State University

In-House Curator

Paul Manoguerra, chief curator and curator of American art


The W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art