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Lester Johnson

American, 1919-2010


Lester Johnson

Self Portrait (Red & Blue), 1967

Oil on canvas
30 x 28 in
76.2 x 71.1 cm


Lester Johnson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1919; the youngest of seven and grandchild of Swedish Homesteaders. After studying at the Minneapolis School of Art, and the St. Paul Art School, he came to New York City in 1947. His first studio was next door to Wolf Kahn on 6th Street, followed by a loft on St. Mark’s Place which he shared with Larry Rivers. He married Josephine Valenti, an art historian, in 1949, and moved into a house on 2nd Avenue which was shared again with Wolf Kahn. After moving uptown, he continued to work downtown, in a studio at 222 Bowery. In 1961, he briefly left the city for an artist-in-residence position at Ohio State. After returning to New York, and while sharing a studio on 10th St. with Philip Pearlstein, he was invited by Jack Tworkov to teach at Yale. He accepted and he and his wife, with their two children moved to Milford, CT, where he taught and continued to paint in a studio behind their house. Johnson spent his Summers in Springs, Long Island, throughout his time at Yale as well as after moving to Greenwich, CT. His work is in the collections of Guggenheim, MoMA, Whitney, Smithsonian, Hirshhorn Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Detroit Institute of Arts.