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Florence Museum celebrates birthday of artist William H. Johnson
From SCNow.com/Morning News Online:
A year after being memorialized with a stamp from the U.S. Postal Service, William H. Johnson will again be remembered Saturday (March 23) at the Florence Museum with a birthday celebration.
In what has become an annual tradition, the trustees of the Florence Museum will host an ice cream social open to the public starting at 3:30 p.m. for the birthday of one of Florence’s most famous sons and artists.
Sadly, Johnson, a black artist who is still growing in popularity around the world as a top African-American artist 43 years after his death, never lived to see his hometown recognize him for the talent he was.
In fact, the only time Johnson ever saw his paintings recognized in his hometown was in 1930 at a three-hour art show held at the YMCA and hosted by The Morning News. No work was sold, and Johnson was later arrested during the same trip for painting a hotel downtown that served white people.
Not a very welcoming atmosphere for a hometown boy who was popularly received throughout the Northeast and Europe at the time, even earning a gold medallion from the Harmon Foundation in New York City for distinguished achievement among Negroes in that same year.
However, the Florence Museum is doing what it can to atone for the past.
In a testament to how well his work is revered in the art world outside of Florence and to what an important icon he is finally becoming here, Johnson will have the only permanent exhibit space in the Florence Museum when it relocates to its new downtown location early next year.
Through a rotational loan with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which owns more than 1,500 of his pieces, guests will be able to see a large variety of his works.
About the stamp image: An oil-on-plywood painting dated 1939-1940, Flowers depicts a vase of boldly rendered, brightly colored blooms on a small red table. The two-dimensional, consciously “naive” style in which Flowers was painted was one of the many techniques of modernist abstraction and “primitive” art adapted by Johnson during his career. The painting, a gift of the Harmon Foundation, belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.