Johnson (1901-70) was a black painter, born in South Carolina and trained in New York, who lived for 12 years in Denmark,...

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L'IL SIS AND UNCLE WILLIE

Johnson (1901-70) was a black painter, born in South Carolina and trained in New York, who lived for 12 years in Denmark, married a Danish woman, and (after her death) spent his last 20 years in a mental institution. Over 1,000 of his bold, brilliantly expressive paintings are now in the National Museum of American Art. Everett, an art educator at the museum, tells the artist's story through a careful selection of 27 of his paintings (beautifully reproduced) linked by a slightly fictionalized text narrated by Johnson's niece. The device works surprisingly well, allowing Everett to describe the man himself as an occasional, somewhat exotic, but well-loved visitor to his hometown, and to give background on some of the subjects he drew from his own life and the black experience--including cotton-pickers, Harlem dancers, and a charming portrait of Li'l Sis at age six, with her doll. There are also a few b&w photos. It would have been nice to know more about the sizes of the paintings and the mediums used; still, an excellent introduction to an outstanding artist who deserves wider recognition.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 1992

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rizzoli

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992