William H. Johnson

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Florence native William H. Johnson, although well-known among historians of 20th century African-American art, has remained an obscure figure to most of the art world. At the age of 17 he traveled and studied in America and Europe, producing and exhibiting art that reflected the styles and attitudes of the world around him. Fearing the eminent onset of war in Europe, Johnson returned to the United States in 1938. Over the course of the next decade, his art transformed into the intense, “primitivist” style he is recognized for today.

Both vibrant and somber, these abstracted paintings depict the African-American experience from both a historical and personal perspective. The Florence Museum is committed to preserving the legacy of William H. Johnson’s life and work through collections, exhibitions, research and educational programs. Our permanent collection currently includes five works by Johnson: two works on paper and three oil paintings, each representing distinct periods of the artist’s development.

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