William H. Johnson
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||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 5 to 7
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||poignant, exhibition, lasting, striking, twentieth, legacy, contour, military, inspiration, successful, soul, purpose, cancer, rickety, leading, multi-colored
||Self Portrait, William H., Harlem Renaissance, South Carolina, New York, National Academy, Charles Hawthorne, United States, Holcha Krake, Harmon Foundation
William H. Johnson
By Colleen Messina
1 Caption: Self Portrait by William H. Johnson, 1934-1935
2 William H. Johnson overcame many obstacles on the road to becoming an artist. Born in poverty and slowed down by the prejudices of his day, he still achieved greatness. He became a leading artist in a movement called the Harlem Renaissance.
3 William was born in Florence, South Carolina, in 1901. His family was poor. Some believe that his father was an important white man, but he did not help his son. William's mother did her best to raise her family alone. She married another man later, but soon William's stepfather got hurt and could not work. His mother did cooking, washing, and ironing for white families to support the family. William was the oldest child and often helped with babysitting and with chores around the house.
4 William first became interested in art when he saw comic strips. A teacher saw him drawing pictures in the dirt and gave the young black artist some pencils and paper. Soon, he was copying comic strips. William decided to become an artist when he was a teenager. Even though he quit school to support his family, he soon decided to go to New York to study art. He attended the National Academy of Design, where he studied painting. His teacher, Charles Hawthorne, knew that William had a lot of talent. However, as a black artist, William would face many challenges in the United States.
5 After graduation, William decided to go to Paris with financial help from his teacher. He lived and worked from 1926 until 1929. William felt inspired in Paris. So many artists and writers worked there! He described his inspiration in a letter to his former teacher. He wrote, "Here the sun is everything. I am not afraid to exaggerate a contour, a form, or anything that gives more character and movement to the canvas."
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