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William H. Johnson's World on Paper
May 19, 2007 - August 12, 2007
Three Friends
William H. Johnson (1901–1970)
Three Friends, c. 1944–1945
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Harmon Foundation
William H. Johnson's World on Paper
May 19, 2007 - August 12, 2007

William H. Johnson's World on Paper examines, for the first time, the achievements of African American modernist William H. Johnson (1901–1970)—often considered one of the most inventive artists of his generation—as a graphic artist.

Exhibition Minutes

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Eighty works of art on paper,including thirty-two watercolors and tempera paintings, about two-dozen block-prints (many of which are hand-colored), and fourteen screenprints, provide an overview of Johnson's career both in Europe in the 1930s and in New York in the 1940s. Among the varied subjects of his work are early landscapes of Denmark, Norway, and North Africa; portraits of his neighbors in Denmark; scenes of daily life in the urban North and the rural South; and scenes of black enlisted men and female volunteers of World War II.

This exhibition reveals Johnson's stylistic development from the dramatic, expressionistic mode of the works he made in Europe in the 1930s to the distinctive form of figurative abstraction (based on folk art as well as African colors and patterns) he developed after returning to the United States on the eve of World War II.


The exhibition tour is supported in part by the C.F. Foundation, Atlanta.


This exhibition is organized and circulated by The Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibition’s tour is supported in part by The C.F. Foundation, Atlanta, and The William R. Kenan, Jr., Endowment Fund.


John Ittmann • Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs


Berman and Stieglitz Galleries, ground floor


Smithsonian American Art Museum • July 1, 2006–January 7, 2007
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX • February 3–April 8, 2007
Philadelphia Museum of Art • May 19–August 12, 2007
Montgomery Museum of Art, Montgomery, AL • September 15–November 18, 2007