The papers of African American painter William H. Johnson date from 1922 to 1971, with the bulk of the material dating from 1926 to 1956, and measure 1.5 linear feet. The collection documents Johnson's career as an artist in New York and in Europe and his marriage to textile artist Holcha Krake through scattered biographical material, including eight letters regarding the sale and exhibition of his work - one from Langston Hughes and two are from Alonzo Aden of the Barnett Aden Gallery. Also found are exhibition catalogs, news clippings, other printed material, and photographs of Johnson, Krake, and their artwork. One scrapbook contains news clippings, letters, and additional photographs. Another scrapbook contains travel postcards. Also found are a few scattered records and research notes compiled by the Harmon Foundation regarding William H. Johnson.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of African American painter William H. Johnson date from 1922 to 1971, with the bulk of the material dating from 1926 to 1956, and measure 1.5 linear feet. The collection documents Johnson's career as an artist in New York and in Europe and his marriage to textile artist Holcha Krake through scattered biographical material, including eight letters regarding the sale and exhibition of his work. Also found are exhibition catalogs, news clippings, other printed material, and photographs of Johnson, Krake, and their artwork. One scrapbook contains news clippings, letters, and additional photographs. Another scrapbook contains travel postcards. Also found are a few scattered records and research notes compiled by the Harmon Foundation regarding William H. Johnson.
Scattered biographical material includes biographical sketches, a marriage certificate, award certificates from the National Academy of Design, lists of artwork, and the guestbook from Johnson's 1941 exhibition at the Alma Reed Gallery. Also found are eight letters regarding the sale and exhibition of his work, including a letter from Langston Hughes and two letters from Alonzo Aden of the Barnett Aden Gallery.
Printed material consists of exhibition catalogs, U.S. and foreign news clippings, and other materials, primarily published by the Harmon Foundation regarding African American art. Photographs are of Johnson, Johnson with Krake in their studio, Johnson with friends in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and of Johnson's artwork.
The collection includes two scrapbooks, one containing news clippings, exhibition materials, letters from Charles Hawthorne, Edith Halpert, Karl Nierendorf, and others, and photographs of Johnson and his artwork. Additional items from the scrapbook may have became detached at an earlier date and included among the material in other series. The second scrapbook contains Johnson's postcard collection from his travels in Europe.
Also found are scattered records and research material of the Harmon Foundation regarding William H. Johnson consisting of exhibition panels displaying original photographs of Johnson and his artwork, as well as translations and notes concerning the foreign news clippings found in the William H. Johnson papers.
The collection is arranged into 5 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1922-1967 (Box 1, 3; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 2: Printed Material, 1928-1971 (Box 1-3; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 3: Photographs, circa 1923-1940s (Box 2-3; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1920s-1947 (Box 2-4; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 5: Harmon Foundation Research Materials Regarding William H. Johnson, 1950s (Box 2, OV 5; 0.2 linear feet)
William Henry Johnson (1901-1970) was born in Florence, South Carolina, in 1901. He moved to New York City in 1918, and from 1921 to 1926 he attended the National Academy of Design, studying with Charles Hawthorne, and attending Hawthorne's summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts. As a student he won many awards for his paintings but failed to win a traveling scholarship to Europe. Hawthorne and others believed there may have been some prejudice in this decision and raised money for Johnson to study abroad. From 1926 to 1929 he lived in Paris and southern France. While in Paris he lived and worked in Whistler's old studio and met African American expatriate painter, Henry Ossawa Tanner. He lived briefly in Harlem, New York, in 1930 and exhibited in the Harmon Foundation's exhibition of work by African American artists in which he won the Gold Award for "Distinguished Achievement among Negroes".
In late 1930 Johnson moved to Kerteminde, Denmark, where he married textile artist Holcha Krake whom he had met in Paris. In 1933 they traveled to Germany, France, and Tunisia, which had a great impact on his work. From 1935 to 1938 they lived in various parts of Norway, and Johnson met artist Edvard Munch.
In 1938 Johnson and his wife moved back to New York City. The next year he briefly joined the WPA Federal Art Project as a painting teacher at the Harlem Community Art Center. Johnson had his first solo exhibition in New York at the Alma Reed Gallery in 1941. After Holcha Krake's death in 1944, Johnson began showing signs of mental illness. He lived briefly in Florence, South Carolina, and in 1946 returned to Denmark. He was hospitalized in Norway in 1947 and was then transferred to the Central Islip State Hospital in New York where he spent the next 23 years, until his death in 1970.
In 1956 the Harmon Foundation acquired over a thousand of Johnson's works that were still among his estate. The foundation ceased operations in 1967.
The William H. Johnson papers were originally donated to the National Museum of American Art (Smithsonian American Art Museum) by the Harmon Foundation in 1982. The National Museum of American Art subsequently transferred them to the Archives of American Art in 1982 and 1986.
The bulk of the collection is digitized. Use of material not digitized requires an appointment.
The William H. Johnson papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
The collection consists of one series that includes videotaped interviews with six southern African American folk artists (listed below), five filmstrips covering topics in African American history, and one audiotape. The videotaping project was funded by the South Carolina Commission for the Arts.
Mary Jane Bennett, Low Country Basket Sewer
Scrape Nelson, Netmaker
Nellie Mae Rowe, Folk Artist
Phillip Simmons, Blacksmith
Biographical / Historical:
The history of the collection is unknown.
Transferred from the Division of Community Life in February 1986.
Collection is open for research. Reference copies, when available, must be used. Access to this collection is limited because of the condition of the existing reference copies and the format of the original videotapes. A digital reference copy for Phillip Simmons: Blacksmith can be found in the Smithsonian Instsitution's Digital Asset Management System (DAMS).
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Through an oral history interview, artist Georgette Seabrooke Powell talks about her extended family, who owned businesses in Charleston, South Carolina, where she was born in 1916. Her family moved to New York City when Powell was six; she describes living in a tenement building, her time as a student at Washington Irving High School and later Cooper Union, and her experiences during the Harlem Renaissance. Powell talks about a few of her paintings, particularly her early work, and the WPA's Federal Art Project, including the mural "Recreation in Harlem." After moving to Washington, D.C., Powell becomes an art therapist and obtains a degree from Howard University. Powell also talks about Operation Heritage, Art in the Park, and P.S. 6. She describes her encounters with racism as a child and then later with her artwork; and explains her greatest accomplishment - raising her family.
Interview. Part of the National Visionary Leadership Project 2003. Dated 20030604.
Biographical / Historical:
Co-founded in 2001 by Camille O. Cosby, Ed.D. and Renee Poussaint, The National Visionary Leadership Project (NVLP), a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, unites generations to create tomorrow's leaders by recording, preserving, and distributing through various media, the wisdom of extraordinary African American elders - Visionaries - who have shaped American history. National Visionary Leadership Project 2003 collection contains five videotaped oral history interviews conducted in partnership with the National Visionary Leadership Project and the Anacostia Community Museum's Education Department in 2003. Interviewees include Georgette Seabrooke Powell, William Langford, Louise Daniel Hutchinson, Jeannine Clark, and Charles Clark. Full transcripts of the interviews are available for reference in the archive.
Title transcribed from cover page of the video recording's transcript.
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Please contact the archivist at email@example.com.
Three Southern world's fairs : Cotton States and International Exposition, Atlanta, 1895; Tennessee Centennial, Nashville, 1897; South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition, Charleston, 1901/2 : creating regional self-portraits through expositions / by Judy L. Larson
Creating regional self-portraits through expositions
Mapping ports : Sullivan's Island, Goreʹe Island, Portableo, Havana and Seville : Arturo Lindsay : a retrospective exhibition / Arturo Lindsay ; [editors, Ellen Dressler Moryl and Katie Lee ; guest curator, Katie Lee]