The Similarities of Pablo Picasso and Vernon Johnson

While surveying the Pablo Picasso exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts last week, I was thinking about what two artists –Vernon Johnson, my relatively traditional Ohio-born father, and Pablo Picasso, the European hedonist of ceaseless experimentation, had in common.

Of course, both were painters, but there is definitely more than that. Dad might be aghast, given his overall conservativism, but I find this quite fascinating. Several personal or artistic similarities come immediately to mind, including wrestling, the human form, still life themes and beach scenes. Perhaps most importantly, both represented their times, their environments and the familiar subject matter that defined those contexts. They had a shared purpose — portraying their vision of what they saw, despite wildly different artistic execution.

Two examples are these paintings: Vernon Johnson’s “Lake Erie Beach, 1940” (on the left) and Picasso’s “The Bathers, 1937.” Even the era was similar, though the coasts were an ocean apart.

If you’re in Richmond, Virginia, be sure to stop by the VFMA before the Picasso show closes.  (There’s another beach scene if you follow the link.) The traveling exhibition has three U.S. stops while its home museum in Paris is being renovated (Musee National Picasso). Leaving the VFMA on May 15, it will be in San Francisco starting in June for four months, his latest U.S. destination.

About The Artist's Eye

Writer, consultant and author of The Artist's Eye: Vernon P. Johnson's Watercolors of 1950s Small Town America
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