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Claudette Johnson: Presence

Claudette Johnson: Presence


This catalogue accompanies a major exhibition of work by British artist Claudette Johnson (b. 1959) at The Courtauld Gallery. A founding member of the Black British Arts Movement, Johnson is considered one of the most significant figurative artists of her generation. For over 40 years she has created large-scale drawings of Black women and men that are at once intimate and powerful.


Presenting a carefully selected group of major works from across Claudette Johnson’s career, from key early drawings of the 1980s, which first established her name, to her remarkable new and recent works, this exhibition and publication offers a compelling overview of Johnson’s pioneering career and artistic development. It explores how Johnson has directed her approach to representing her subjects over four decades. It also considers how her practice is rooted in the art of the past, with The Courtauld’s collection providing a rich context in which to see her work. Johnson makes drawings in a variety of media, ranging from monochrome works in dark pastel to vast sheets brightly coloured in vibrant gouache and watercolour. She combines this with subtle and sometimes dramatic use of pose, gaze, and scale. These distinctive drawings of friends, relatives, and often herself seek, as the artist puts it, ‘to tell a different story about our presence in this country’. This exhibition is the first monographic show of Claudette Johnson’s work at a major public gallery in London and is rooted in the ongoing research, teaching and activities in the field of Black and Diasporic British Art by Dorothy Price. The accompanying catalogue is fully illustrated and includes original research and shares insights gained from conversations with the artist.

  • Edited by Dorothy Price and Barnaby Wright

    September 2023

    Hardback, 260 x 250 mm 

    120 pages, 50 colour illus. 

    ISBN: 978-1-913645-54-0



    PROFESSOR DOROTHY PRICE FBA is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Critical Race Art History at The Courtauld Institute of Art, in London and has published widely in the areas of German modernism and Black and Diasporic art in Britain. She also works as a curator and has curated exhibitions for The Lowry, Salford; Arnolfini, Bristol and most recently Making Modernism for the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Dorothy is lead curator for the forthcoming exhibition Claudette Johnson: Presence at the Courtauld Gallery (opening September 2023) and the Royal Academy’s ambitious exhibition Entangled Pasts: Art, Colonialism and Change (opening February 2024). Until 2022 Price was editor of Art History journal where she worked with Prof. Sonia Boyce RA OBE on a joint special issue Rethinking British Art: Black Artists and Modernism, published in June 2021. She is currently working on several publications, including Art History: A Critical Introduction to its Methods (2024).

    DR BARNABY WRIGHT is Deputy Head of The Courtauld Gallery and Daniel Katz Curator of 20th-century art. He has curated and co-curated a series of exhibitions including:  Frank Auerbach: London Building Sites 1952-62 (2009- 10); Cezanne’s Card Players (2010-11); Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 (2013); Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude (2014-15); Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys (2017-18); and Edvard Munch: Masterpieces from Bergen (2021). He has also curated exhibitions of contemporary art at The Courtauld including Richard Serra: Drawings for the Courtauld (2013); Jasper Johns: Regrets (2014); Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat (2015-16); and most recently Peter Doig (2022).

  • Exhibition Details

    The Courtauld Gallery, London 

    29 September 2023 – 14 January 2024 

  • In the press

    ★★★★ "the quiet power of Johnson’s current work leaves theory behind" — The Guardian


    "splendid exhibition" — The Spectator


    "striking and beautiful"— The Telegraph


    "a must-see" — Art News


    Interview with Claudette Johnson in The New York Times

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