William H. Johnson
Self-Portrait with Bandana 1935-38
Oil on burlap, 63.8 x 53.5 cm
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, USA
Gift of the Harmon Foundation



William H. Johnson

William H. Johnson was one of the foremost African American artists of his generation. He lived and worked in New York, France and Denmark, and his style and subject matter were as wide ranging as his travels. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was strongly influenced by the Expressionists.

"....Johnson extended [the] inquiry into [his] ancestry and self to his art, as seen in several fascinating self-portraits..."

"...Johnson's intense colors and expressive painting technique catapult his self image into a modern aesthetic, one riddled with formal dichotomies and underlying emotions. Light years ahead of those somber self-portraits that lined the halls of the National Academy of Design and other American institutions, this introspective view....illustrates the talent behind the artist's demand for greater respect and recognition...."

Richard J. Powell, 'A Painter in the World: 1930-1938', Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson.


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