William H. Johnson1928/1929

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Boston, MA, United States

Johnson, an African-American artist working in Paris, saw Lithuanian-born painter Chaim Soutine’s first major exhibition in 1927. He was immediately drawn to Soutine’s wild, gestural expressionist work and began to absorb his style. Johnson made this contorted street scene in Cagnes-sur-Mer, an artists’ colony on the French Riviera where Soutine had worked for several years. Studying Soutine’s style helped Johnson release his own emotional reactions to his surroundings. He wrote, “I am not afraid to exaggerate a contour, a form, or anything that gives more character and movement to the canvas.”


  • Title: Cagnes-sur-Mer
  • Creator: William H. Johnson
  • Date Created: 1928/1929
  • Physical Dimensions: 20 1/2 x 24 in.
  • Provenance: Gift of the artist to David and Helen Harriton, Mimisink Hills, Pa.; by descent to their children, Lewis Harriton and Carol Harriton Cartwright; by 1993, with June Kelly Gallery, New York; December 1993, sold by June Kelly Gallery to John Axelrod, Boston; 2011, sold by John Axelrod to the MFA.
  • Subject Keywords: African American Artist
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: The John Axelrod Collection—Frank B. Bemis Fund, Charles H. Bayley Fund, and The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All Rights Reserved.
  • External Link: MFA Website Entry
  • Medium: Oil on canvas mounted on board

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