Screenprint with hand coloring
Support: Paper board
Sheet: 43.1 x 35 cm (16 15/16 x 13 3/4 in.)
Dudley P. Allen Fund 2003.1
A native of Florence, South Carolina, William Henry Johnson studied at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1921. In the mid-1920s, he moved to Europe, painting still lifes, landscapes, and portraits in an expressionistic mode. Returning to New York in 1939, Johnson joined the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP) and taught at the Harlem Community Art Center, where he met well-known African American artists like Jacob Lawrence. Johnson's work changed dramatically. He began using African Americans as subjects, explaining that "I want to paint Negro people in their natural environment . . . I wish to study my people thoroughly."
Johnson acknowledged the innate power and spirituality found in the art of common people and decided to exploit his own folk heritage, returning visually to the South of his childhood. Making few prints, Johnson portrayed scenes of everyday life in a style of simplified, geometric areas of intense, flat color. This rare impression of Fright joins the museum's growing collection of works by African-American artists.
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