The idiosyncratic, life trajectory of American artist William Henry Johnson (1901-1970) explains in part his shifting approaches to painting. And yet Johnson’s oft-voiced declaration of his membership in (and artistic dedication to) his “family of primitiveness and tradition” accounted for his career-long focus on a painterly and colorful expressionism. Dr. Richard Powell, John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, tracks Johnson’s commitment to an emotionally charged mode of painting that, despite varying contexts and different chronological moments, reflects the universal and avant-garde dimensions of his biographical source material.
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