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Mount Calvary
16.88" x 22.38"
Gouache on paper
c. 1944

William H. Johnson returned to the United States in 1938 after living abroad in France and Scandinavia where he was initially trained in modernist visual language and later Northern folk art vernacular. Once he returned to America, Johnson immersed himself in African American traditions, creating work that spanned media and imagery—from landscapes and still lifes to portraiture and religious scenes. Mount Calvary is a striking piece, with elongated figures, bold colors and flattened space that typifies Johnson’s mature style. This gouache on paper is a study for the 1944 oil painting Christ Crucified, illustrating Johnson’s careful compositional planning and initial color choices. It is one among numerous biblical scenes that Johnson depicted.