Painting

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Before he leapt full force into sculpture, Seward Johnson spent nearly a decade as a painter. However, by 1968 he was dissatisfied with what he perceived were the limitations of the medium in the pursuit of his ideas. Johnson found himself in search of a way to work more boldly and to express himself on a larger scale. He began his move into sculpture. He took his first sculpture class at the suggestion of his wife Cecelia. Upon the success of winning an international sculpture competition that year out of a field of nearly 12,000 entries, the rest is history.

While his painting may have been sidelined for sculpture, Johnson’s love of color and form never subsided. Even as his reputation as a sculptor grew, his experience with painting helped him achieve the heightened realism he sought in his Celebrating the Familiar series. The same was true when he embarked upon his Beyond the Frame series in 1994, and years later when he created the Icons Revisited series. With the advent of his painted trays series, titled A Midnight Snack, making its premiere in this retrospective exhibition, Johnson reveals his very personal approach as a painter of intimate landscapes and private scenes. Their very essence forms an extraordinary counterpoint to the bold public statements of his sculpture.