The exaggerated features and thickly painted background in this self-portrait reflect William H. Johnson's admiration for European expressionist painters. When he first showed these works in the United States, one critic complained that Johnson was too influenced by foreign styles, while another argued that "a man is an artist first and an American afterwards" (Powell, Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson, 1991). Self-Portrait reveals that Johnson's first trip to Europe had shaped not only his style but his self-image, and had set him on a path toward the "primitive" and "spiritual" truth that he felt all good art must possess

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