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ca. 1923-1926 William H. Johnson Born: Florence, South Carolina 1901 Died: Central Islip, New York 1970 oil on canvas 29 3/4 x 23 3/4 in. (75.5 x 60.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Harmon Foundation 1967.59.679 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 30B

Luce Center Label

This self-portrait reflects William H. Johnson’s training at the National Academy of Design. His painting teacher, Charles Hawthorne, encouraged his students to paint with “spots of color,” using a palette knife instead of a brush (Powell, Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson, 1991). Here, patches of red, yellow, and blue pigment lift Johnson’s features out of the background and give his self-portrait the somber dignity that the National Academy fostered in its artists.


Ethnic - African-American

Occupation - art - painter

Occupation - art - printmaker

Portrait male - Johnson, William H. - self-portrait

Portrait male - Johnson, William H. - waist length


paint - oil

fabric - canvas