Lester Johnson (January 27, 1919 – May 30, 2010) was an American artist and educator. Johnson was a member of the Second Generation of the New York School during the late 1950s. The subject of much of his work is the human figure. His style is considered by critics and art historians to be in the figurative expressionist mode.
Lester Johnson was born in 1919 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From 1942 to 1947, he attended the Minneapolis School of Art, where he studied under Alexander Masley, a former student of Hans Hofmann in Munich, Germany.
Johnson moved to New York City in 1947. His first studio and apartment was on 6th Street and Avenue A, next door to the painter Wolf Kahn. His next residence and workspace was a loft on St. Marks Place that he shared with Larry Rivers. In 1949, Johnson married Josephine Valenti, an art historian, and moved into a house on 2nd Ave and 2nd Street, which the couple shared with Kahn. In 1961, Johnson briefly left the city for an artist-in-residence position at Ohio State University. Upon returning to New York City, Johnson shared a studio with the painter Philip Pearlstein. In 1964, Johnson was invited by Abstract Expressionist painter Jack Tworkov to teach at Yale, where he served as the Director of Studies Graduate Painting from 1969 to 1974. Johnson retired from teaching at the Yale School of Art and Architecture in 1989.
In New York, Johnson exhibited at the Martha Jackson Gallery, Zabriskie Gallery, Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer, and James Goodman Gallery. He has also been exhibited at several museums, including group shows at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, The Whitney, Museum of Modern Art, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was elected a member to both the American Academy of Arts & Letters and National Academy of Design. Throughout his career, Lester exhibited extensively with Donald Morris Gallery in Detroit, Michigan and with David Klein Gallery in Birmingham, Michigan.
- 1947 Came to New York
- 1961–62 Artist-in-residence, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
- 1964 Summer artist-in-residence, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- 1964–89 Professor (Adjunct) of Painting, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
- 1969–74 Director of Studies, Graduate Painting, School of Art and Architecture, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Awards and prizes
- 2004 Elected Member, American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 2003 American Academy of Arts and Letters, Jimmy Ernst Award
- 1987 Elected Associate, National Academy of Design
- 1987 Brandeis University, Creative Arts Award for Painting
- 1973 Guggenheim Fellowship
- 1961 Longview Fellowship Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- 1942 Midwestern Artists Competition 1st prize
- 1941 St. Paul Gallery Scholarship
- 1940–41 The President’s Scholarship Minneapolis School of Fine Arts
- 1939 Alfred Pillsbury Scholarship
Selected public collections
- Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
- Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
- Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
- Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
- Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
- Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX
- Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
- Minneapolis Institute of Arts
- The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
- Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
- Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
- Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
- Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA
- Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
- Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
- Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT
- Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.
- Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
- Giuliano, Charles. "Lester Johnson at Acme Fine Arts - Berkshire Fine Arts". www.berkshirefinearts.com. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
- Stein, Judith E. (1987-01-01). "Lester Johnson: The Likeness of Things Unlike". Retrieved 2021-02-23.
- Grimes, William (2010-06-09). "Lester Johnson, Expressionist Painter, Dies at 91 (Published 2010)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
- renartblog (2019-01-18). "STILL, THERE'S LIFE IN MILLFORD!". BRIDGING THE GAP. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
- "Painter Lester Johnson has died". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
- Gallery, David Klein. "Lester Johnson". David Klein Gallery. Retrieved 2021-06-17.
- Sandler, Irving H. The New York School: The Painters and Sculptors of the Fifties, New York: Harper & Row, 1978. ISBN 0-06-438505-1
- Schimmel, Paul and Stein, Judith E., The Figurative fifties: New York figurative expressionism: New York: Rizzoli, 1988. ISBN 0-8478-0942-0
- Detailed list of exhibitions http://www.procuniarworkshop.com/biography-of/lester-johnson.html
- James Goodman Gallery https://web.archive.org/web/20110713075056/http://www.jamesgoodmangallery.com/artists_bio.cfm?fid=199
- Denise Cade Gallery http://www.denisecadegallery.com/artist-johnson.php
- New York Times Obituary https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/arts/design/09johnson.html?src=me
- Star Tribune Obituary http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/art/95982914.html?elr=KArks7PYDiaK7DUqEiaDUiD3aPc%3A_Yyc%3AaUU
- Lester Johnson online