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Buffie Johnson, born on February 20, 1912, in New York City, was an American painter known for her contributions to the Abstract Expressionist movement.
Johnson’s education in art began at the Knox School in Cooperstown, New York, and she attended the Art Students League in New York City during holidays. Later, she studied at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was mentored by Anita Delano, and she took private lessons with Etienne Ret in Los Angeles. Johnson further expanded her artistic horizons by studying at the Academie Julian in Paris and attending Hayter's Atelier 17, where she was mentored by Francis Picabia.
Johnson's artistic career took off in 1937 with her first show at the Zeitlin Gallery in Los Angeles. During a two-year interlude in Paris between 1937 and 1939, Johnson became acquainted with notable artists such as Brancusi, Braque, Chagall, Ernst, Giacometti, Kokoschka, and Picasso. She formed a close friendship with Sonia Delaunay, and Francis Picabia visited her studio weekly for a year.
In 1939, with the onset of World War II, Johnson fled Paris and returned to New York City, where she continued to exhibit her work. Her solo exhibitions at the Wakefield Gallery in New York in 1939 and the O'Toole Gallery in New York in 1941 garnered critical acclaim.
During the 1940s, Johnson became part of various artistic circles, including those surrounding Peggy Guggenheim and Julian Levy. She was close with fellow artists Rothko, Newman, Tony Smith, Adolph Gottlieb, and Hans Hofmann. In 1950, after moving to Long Island, Johnson found herself among the Abstract Expressionists, including Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Alfonso Ossorio.
Although Johnson was already an established artist by the time of the Exhibition by 31 Women, this show further solidified her place in the art world. Her work, "La Dejeuner sur Mer" (1942), was a standout piece in the exhibition.
Johnson married John Lathan in the 1940s, but the couple soon separated due to conflicting priorities. She later married Gerald Sykes in 1950, with whom she had a daughter, Jenny, before divorcing in 1973.
Johnson also contributed work for theater, ballet, and film. She created an abstract mural for the Astor Theater on Broadway in the late 1940s, which was returned to her when the theater was demolished in 1982.
Throughout her career, Buffie Johnson was a significant figure in the world of American art, and her work continues to inspire and captivate audiences today.