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The Art and Life of Lucas Johnson

The Art and Life of Lucas Johnson
Introduction by Walter Hopps; essay by Edmund P. Pillsbury; illustrated chronology by Patricia Covo Johnson

A beautifully illustrated introduction to the work of a major Texas artist.

Houston Artists Fund
January 2006
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184 pages | 9.5 x 11.5 | 73 color illus., 46 duotones, 42 halftones |

Artist Lucas Johnson (1940-2002) was a "Yankee with a Latin soul." Raised in Protestant New England, he passionately embraced the people, language, and life of Mexico, where he lived periodically during his lifetime. The landscape and mysticism of the country, along with Mexico's richly multifaceted culture, became the foundation stones of his art. A master colorist, Johnson based his art in figuration, but mythical and narrative elements give it an imagist rather than a realist effect. Johnson was equally adept at drawing, printmaking, and painting, and all these facets of his artwork are explored in this volume.

In Johnson's early drawings and paintings, the subjects were personages drawn from humanist impulses, an interest Johnson shared with many artists in the 1960s. After he settled in Texas in the 1970s, his imagery changed, growing more abstract and symbolic, but it was always suffused with humanity. Johnson explored many different materials and techniques, from egg tempera and silverpoint to bronze casting. He was also intensely curious about politics, literature, and the how and why of people's lives. An avid sportsman and fisherman, Johnson produced imagery based on astute observation and often infused with the transformative power of natural phenomena. All these interests inform an intriguing body of work that profoundly reflects the artist's deep connection to the geography, flora, fauna, and peoples of the Texas-Mexico region and the Gulf Coast, while it also delves into the mysteries of myth and human motivation.


The late Walter Hopps was Founding Director of the Menil Collection and an internationally acclaimed curator.

Edmund P. Pillsbury, a noted art historian, is the former director of the Kimball Art Museum and the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University. He lives in Dallas.

Patricia Covo Johnson, the widow of Lucas Johnson, is the art critic for the Houston Chronicle.