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Born in South Carolina to a poor family, William H. Johnson (1901–1970) moved to New York at age seventeen and worked his way through the prestigious National Academy of Design, winning numerous awards and the respect of his teachers and fellow students. He spent the late 1920s and most of the 1930s in Europe, absorbing the lessons of modernism and developing an interest in primitivism and folk art. Returning to the United States in 1938, he immersed himself in painting scenes of African American tradition with stunning and eloquent simplicity.

Although Johnson enjoyed some artistic success, by the time of his death he had slipped into obscurity. After he died, his entire life’s work was almost disposed of to save storage fees, but it was rescued by friends at the last moment. Over a thousand paintings by Johnson are now part of the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which is dedicated exclusively to the art and artists of the United States. The museum’s collections trace the country’s story in art spanning three centuries, and its in-depth resources offer opportunities to understand that story better.

Selection includes Lift Up Thy Voice and Sing, Flower to Teacher, Three Little Children, and Going to Church. Twenty full-color 5 x 7" blank notecards (five each of four styles) with white envelopes in a decorative box. ISBN 0-7649-3676-