Resources and Tours
Art and Life of William H. Johnson:
A Guide for Teachers
1901 Born in Florence, South Carolina, to Henry and Alice Johnson on March 18.
1918 Leaves Florence for New York City.
1921 Admitted to the National Academy of Design.
1926 Departs for Paris in the fall. Stylistically influenced by the French modernists Paul Cezanne and Chaim Soutine. Meets expatriate African American artist Henry O. Tanner.
1927 Moves to Cagnes-sur-Mer in southern France. Meets Holcha Krake, a textile artist, at Cagnes-sur-Mer.
1930 Receives the William E. Harmon Foundation's gold medal for "distinguished achievement among Negroes." Marries Holcha Krake in May at Kerteminde, Denmark.
1932 Travels to Germany, France, and Tunisia.
1938 Returns to New York in November.
1939 Joins the WPA Federal Art Project in New York City. Teaches painting at the Harlem Community Art Center.
1941 Exhibits at Alma Reed Galleries, New York. First solo exhibition in New York.
1944 Holcha Krake dies of cancer in January. Johnson returns to Florence, South Carolina, in June.
1946 Exhibits Fighters for Freedom in the solo exhibition at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library. Returns to Denmark.
1947 Travels to Norway—has mental breakdown. In the spring, is confined to a hospital in Oslo. Enters Central Islip State Hospital in New York by the end of the year. Has debilitating brain disease for the rest of his life.
1956 The Harmon Foundation acquires all works in the artist's possession.
1967 The Harmon Foundation ceases operations and gives more than one thousand works to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The museum makes gifts of Johnson's works to selected regional art museums and black colleges and universities, and to members of the Johnson family.
1970 Dies on Long Island, April 13.
1971 First retrospective exhibition, William H. Johnson, 1901–1970, held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, November 1971–January 1972. Later the exhibition tours Africa and Europe (1972–1973) under the auspices of the United States Information Agency.