Works in the Collection
Sargent Claude Johnson was born in 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts to a father of Swedish descent and a mother of African American and Cherokee heritage. Both of his parents died when Johnson was young, and he and his siblings went to live with their uncle and his wife, the noteworthy African American sculptor May Howard Jackson. Though the family did not live with them for very long, Jackson was undoubtedly an early influence on Johnson’s work.
Johnson moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1915, and in 1919, he began studying at the California School of Fine Arts. In 1926, he exhibited for the first time with the Harmon Foundation. In 1936, he was hired as a senior sculptor by the WPA and began producing large scale public art. Johnson continued to exhibit locally and with the Harmon Foundation for the rest of his career but never made enough from his art to pursue it full time. Beginning in 1945, Johnson began to travel frequently to Southern Mexico. For the next two decades, Johnson would continue to draw inspiration from the culture and art of the region.