Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



S.C. Artist honored with Forever Stamp

Posted 2/15/2012 12:07:00 PM

The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that a new stamp, honoring the late William H. Johnson, will be issued this spring.

As a boy growing up in Florence, Johnson would hone his drawing skills by meticulously copying the comic strips from the newspaper.

Johnson’s artistic talent would soon take him far away from his Carolina roots. His first stop was Harlem, where he lived with his uncle and worked at numerous jobs to raise the money necessary to attend New York’s National Academy of Design. In the 1920s, Johnson joined a thriving expat community in France, where he studied modernism before returning to Harlem to set up a studio.

His travels didn’t end there. In 1930 Johnson moved to Denmark, where he married fellow artist Holcha Krake. The couple was forced to flee Europe as the Nazis sphere of influence spread and by 1938 they were back in New York City, working for Roosevelt’s WPA Arts Project.

Today Johnson is known as a major figure in 20th century American art. His style was influenced greatly by modernism but also by folk traditions. He is perhaps best known for his colorful, folk-art inspired scenes of everyday African-American life.

The stamp honoring Johnson depicts his work Flowers. The cheerful still life from 1939-40 features a vase of happy wild flowers on a small table and is a great example of Johnson’s painting style.

The release date for the William H. Johnson stamp is set for April 11. The stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp.

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