Arthur Johnson (1878-1954)
Professions: Landscape painter; Portrait painter; Genre Painter; Caricaturist; Painter
Photograph of "Jack" Johnson
Arthur Johnson Biography
Arthur Johnson was born in 1874 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Charles F Johnson who was the owner/editor of America’s largest German-American newspaper, The Cincinnati Volksblatt and the U S Consul to Hamburg, Germany. Arthur Johnson began his life as a artist at a very young age, acquiring his interest in art from his uncle, Colonel Lewis Johnson, a highly skilled artist who drew many detailed drawings and portraits from the Civil War.
In America, Arthur Johnson studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy. Moving to Berlin in 1889, he studied at the Berlin Academy of Art, and in 1893 enrolled in the Royal Academy of Berlin. Arthur Johnson ultimately was awarded the Prix de Rome of the Prussian Academy. With his success in winning the prestigious Prix de Rome, he, then in his early twenties, moved to Italy and did many paintings which reflected the magic he found in the southern Italian sun and the new effects of light and color which he encountered.
He returned to Berlin, and the critics were very kind. Warm praise was given to the original work, “Thus Spake the Lord”, also having the distinction of being featured in the Art Journals, The Kunstwelt and The Studio along with other early works including landscapes, portraits, and nudes. An article in the Feb. 1, 1903 New York Times describes Johnson saying, “Berlin Critics Say Arthur Johnson of Cincinnati Has the Hand of a Great Painter.”
His early works reveal a very solid technique, a strong sense of color, and a stylistic approach to his landscape paintings. Known works of this highly acclaimed artist are:
* SONNENRAUSCH (Sun Intoxication)
* SONNENSPIEL (Sun Play)
* TRAUMENDER TAG (Dreamy Day)
* STILLE (Silence)
* ROMAMANTISCHE LANDSCHAFT (Romantic Landscape)
* BADENDE KINDER (Bathing Children)
* CHANT D’AMOUR (Song of Love)
* THUS SPAKE THE LORD
* DIE LETZTEN SONNENSTRAHLEN
The pundits of the art world were pained when the young Arthur Johnson became highly interested in caricature. Arthur Johnson began drawing political caricatures for the highly successful Humor/Satire Magazine, The Kladderadatsch, in 1906 and drew hundreds of detailed political caricatures with an extremely high level of artistic attainment. H. R. Westwood, in Modern Caricaturists, says, “ Johnson himself considers caricatures to be one of the strongest weapons for the propagation of truth. . . and of lies.” Johnson says, “. . . but there are times, such as those we are living in today, when humanity forgets to laugh, and cartooning comes to be a sort of monitor of the world’s conscience.” All of the drawings of Arthur Johnson are done with lithographic crayon direct on to the lithographic stone. He became an icon in German caricature, retiring only when the Kladderadatsch closed its doors in September of 1944. A tribute and biography of Arthur Johnson is available in the August, 1944 issue of the Kladderadatsch.
A fascinating and multi-faceted artist, Arthur Johnson’s original paintings and caricatures show a highly developed artist and complex personality. H. R. Westwood, in Modern Caricaturists, says of Arthur Johnson (when speaking of the photographs of Johnson himself), “One sees in his photograph, the indubitable artist, an artist who is just a little of a Bohemian, but one who takes his profession with intense gravity and inner conviction."
Arthur Johnson died in 1954 in Berlin, Germany. His mother was Mary DuBach Johnson and sister, Olive Johnson.
Arthur Johnson is listed in the following books:
WHO’S WHO OF AMERICAN ART (1564 – 1975)
MALLETT’S INDEX OF ARTISTS (INTERNATIONAL – BIOGRAPHICAL)
ARTISTS IN OHIO 1787 -1900
ALLGEMEINES LEXIKON DER BILDENDEN KUNSTLER
MODERN CARICATURISTS BY H. R. WESTWOOD (8 Page Biography of Johnson)
*Multiple articles and quotes from Arthur Johnson in books regarding caricature
*Biographical sketch by Cheryl Johnson Ludecke,
Great Niece of Arthur Johnson