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Clarice Smith Virtual Lecture with Richard Powell

November 17, 2021 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0


Discover the magnificent Scandinavian landscapes and other European-based paintings created by celebrated Harlem Renaissance painter William H. Johnson. Take a deep dive into this often overlooked and misunderstood period in Johnson’s life and work with leading scholar Richard Powell. By comparing these paintings with Johnson’s well-known artworks of African Americans, Powell introduces a new understanding of the artist’s enthusiasm for his expressive and rapturous subject matter. This virtual lecture examines the breadth and radical inventiveness of this singular artist’s work and pays particular attention to Johnson’s interpretations of international Expressionism in painting, and to ideas discussed by philosopher Alain Locke on a post–Harlem Renaissance racial “Reformation.”

Richard Powell is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University, where he has taught since 1989. Along with teaching courses in American art, the arts of the African Diaspora, and contemporary visual studies, Powell has curated nationally touring exhibitions and written extensively on topics ranging from primitivism to postmodernism. Powell wrote the catalogue that accompanied SAAM’s nationally touring exhibition Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (1991). He is the author of Black Art: A Cultural History (1997, 2002, & 2021), Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture (2008), and Going There: Black Visual Satire (2020).

This program is part of our annual Clarice Smith Distinguished Lectures in American Art series, which presents new insights into American art from the perspectives of outstanding artists, critics, and scholars. The series is made possible by the generosity of Clarice Smith.


Smithsonian American Art Museum
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