Arts and Culture

Shani Gilchrist



Works of a South Carolina-born ‘American Modern’ come to Lake City

Posted 9/18/2013 6:57:00 PM

Many South Carolina art history buffs know that Jacob Lawrence had some roots in the Palmetto State. I was surprised to learn recently, however, that one of his very influential contemporaries, William H. Johnson, was also from here.

Johnson was born in Florence in 1901 and went on to study at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1918. He spent much of the 1920s and 1930s scuttling back and forth between the United States and Europe, including 12 years spent in Denmark and Norway, before settling down in New York in 1938 with his Danish wife. As he settled in, his work began to explore his South Carolina memories as well as the urban Harlem experience. He produced significant works with varying media and techniques up until he became ill in Norway after the death of his wife and the end of World War II. When he returned to New York, he was hospitalized at Central Islip State Hospital, where he remained until his death in 1971.

A comprehensive exhibition of Johnson’s work has been touring the United States as part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). This week “William Johnson: An American Modern” makes its debut in Lake City at the Jones-Carter Gallery, 105 Henry St. The exhibition, which will run Sept. 21 – Dec. 29, consists of 20 expressionist and vernacular landscapes, still life paintings and portraits. The tour originally consisted of only nine cities, which include Phoenix, Orlando, Cleveland and Lake City.

For more information about “William H. Johnson: An American Modern”, please visit the SITES exhibition page. For gallery hours and information, visit