Feb 13, 2014 - Sale 2338

Sale 2338 - Lot 44

Price Realized: $ 81,250
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 50,000 - $ 75,000
WILLIAM H. JOHNSON (1901 - 1970)
On a John Brown Flight.

Color pochoir and screenprint on cream wove paper, circa 1942-45. 406x610 mm; 16x24 inches. One of only several proofs, with rich, vibrant colors.

Provenance: Mary Beattie Brady (director of the Harmon Foundation, New York); family descendant, Delaware; Debra Force Fine Art, New York; Martha Henry Fine Art, New York; private collection, New York.

On a John Brown Flight is a very scarce example of an important color print. While living in New York in the early 1940s, William H. Johnson printed a handful of proof impressions from his screenprints, depicting colorful images of both the rural South and of Harlem. Out of the 17 known screenprint images Johnson made, On a John Brown Flight, is the only image of an American historical figure, and is the largest of the series. Johnson worked with screenprinting for only three years until tragedy struck in 1943--his Danish wife, Holcha, was diagnosed with breast cancer and died months later. Johnson also painted a heroic image of the Abolitionist leader in the 1945 oil John Brown Legend, where Brown is depicted with a halo of yellow hair like a saint.

This is the first time this print has come to auction. We have located four other impressions of On a John Brown Flight in public collections - the Library of Congress, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution. These were experimental and painterly prints, using both screens and pochoir (hand-colored stencils) - this impression has a slightly different registration in the harness of the oxen and the mountains.