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    Sargent Claude Johnson (American, 1888-1967)
    Head of a Youth, circa 1930s
    7 inches (17.8 cm) high on a 3-1/2 inch (8.9 cm) high wood base
    Inscribed on back of head: Sargent Johnson

    The Soul of a Nation: Black Art from a Distinguished Collector

    Private Collection, St. Louis, Missouri.

    Sargent Claude Johnson (1888-1967) was an American artist of African descent who worked in various media including painting, sculpture, ceramics, and printmaking. His primary medium was sculpture. Johnson studied at the Worcester Art School in Massachusetts and moved to San Francisco in 1915 to study painting, drawing and sculpture. He attended A.W. Best School of Art and the California School of Fine Arts. During this time, he studied under sculptors Ralph Stackpole and Beniamino Bufano. As a student, Johnson earned two first place prizes studying at the California School of Fine Arts in 1921 and 1922. In 1925, Johnson attracted the attention of the Harmon Foundation, an organization that provided awards to African Americans for distinguished achievement in business, education, fine arts, literature, music, race relations, religious service, and science to stimulate creative achievement during the Harlem Renaissance (1919-1930). Johnson won many awards for his work and was included in their exhibitions.

    Johnson spent his career in the Bay area and became the first African American artist on the West Coast to receive a national reputation. Like many of his contemporaries, he studied African art and drew inspiration from his life and community including African American music, art, and literature. In the 1930s he worked with the Federal Arts Project on public projects for the New Deal, where he expanded his range of subjects and style, including abstraction. In the 1940s he traveled to Mexico and was equally influenced by Mexican muralism. Johnson embraced his cultural identity, and it was reflected in his work. He made a bold choice to reflect African beauty in his sculptures. He states, "It is the pure American Negro I am concerned with, aiming to show the natural beauty and dignity in that characteristic lip and characteristic hair... I wish to show that beauty not so much to the white man as to the Negro himself".

    Sargent Johnson elegantly portrays the descendant beauty of Kings and Queens in "Head of a Youth" with its distinctly African features like Benin Bronzes.

    Halima Taha, writer, arts & cultural strategist, and author of Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas
    © Halima Taha/Tahathinks 2021

    Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000.

    Condition Report*: Presents very well. A small dot of retouching to the center of the back of the boy's head. A very few small dots of retouching along the boy's proper right jawline. A very few scattered pinpoint losses to polychrome surface. Overall height: 10-1/2 inches.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

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    This lot is in: 2 - Signature® Floor Session (Live Floor, Live Phone, Mail, Fax, Internet, and Heritage Live):
    (Lots 67207-67301) - 4:00 PM Central Time, Friday, November 5, 2021.
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