The Most Frequently Asked Questions
-Are there real clothes on the sculptures?
No. Surprisingly each sculpture is entirely
bronze. The realism of the textures and details is the hallmark of Johnson's
art, and this detailing is achieved with hours and hours of intense labor.
Seward Johnson begins each bronze with a l2 inch tall "sketch"
in clay, and then enlarges this to life scale in clay. Often delicate textures,
such as the skin, can be made more real with fabrics pressed into the clay
at this stage. Sometimes articles of clothing are stiffened with a resin
and used in the mold process, but there in no clothing on top of, or under
the bronze, in the sculpture that you see today. Other times clay clothing
is sculpted onto the figure by the artist using wooden and metal tools with
very fine points and edges. As the figures are sawed into many parts for
the casting process, there are dozens of roughly welded areas when the parts
are reassembled in bronze. At this stage, the artist must replace many of
the fine textures; a corduroy, a tweed, a cable knit sweater pattern, with
an electric tool that is much like a fine dentist's drill. This is the most
time consuming part of creating these bronzes. It takes between one and
two years to create one sculpture.
-Who does the artist use as models?
When Seward Johnson is ready to enlarge a piece from
the small gesture sketch into the life size version, he will seek out just
the perfect face and body type for the story of the sculpture. When he was
doing a gardener, he went and talked with gardeners and landscape companies.
He wanted a weathered face with sun wrinkles, and the working hands of a
gardener. He used a real police officer for his work Times Up, which depicts
an officer writing a ticket.
-How does he get the unusual colors?
Seward Johnson has been developing unique chemistry
for the colors of his sculptures for years. In an effort to better fool
the eye, and allow the pieces to blend successfully into our colorful world,
he began to add colors about ten years ago. The skin on the pieces remains
a traditional bronze patina, and the current opaque colors are achieved
using the type of paints that are the most advanced technical pigments used
on airplanes. They are quite resistant to climate conditions, and each sculpture
is also coated with a thin film of incrylac and a final coating of wax for
-Haven't I seen these somewhere before?
If you are a frequent traveler, it is likely that you have seen Johnson's
work in other places. New York City has several very publicly sited works,
as does Washington DC, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Paris, London,
Osaka, and even Istanbul. Cities will often arrange an exhibition of Johnson's
bronzes to bring levity to a downtown area, and museum's frequently host
exhibits on their grounds and parklands. You may also have seen photos of
the sculptures in Architectural Digest, New Yorker Magazine, The New York
Times, The Boston Globe, Life Magazine, and others. Johnson has also appeared
on the Tonight Show with several of his pieces, and CNN has also created
a couple of interesting stories on the artist.
-What's Seward Johnson like?
Seward Johnson is 68 this year, and has been married for over 20 years to
his wife, a novelist. The Johnson's have two grown children and live in
Princeton, New Jersey and on Nantucket. Seward Johnson had the unusual experience
of growing up as the heir to one of America's largest fortunes as the grandson
of the founder of Johnson + Johnson. As someone who could have spent a life
of leisure, Johnson is quite actively involved in both his art and an array
of other interests. He is the President of a large oceanographic research
institution in Florida, the publisher of a science magazine, and the founder
of an off-Broadway theater in New York. He is the past President of the
International Sculpture Center of Washington, DC, and remains a vital force
in encouraging and assisting with young sculptors careers by having created
the Johnson Atelier Foundry and Technical Institute.
Personally, Seward Johnson is a charming and philosophical man, with a tendency
toward irreverent wit. He loves to anonymously loiter around his public
sculptures and make negative remarks to fellow viewers of the art to see
what the real response to his work is! He loves to get into the position
of having the stranger unwittingly defend the sculpture to this "hostile"
-Are these one of a kind, or does the artist make several castings?
Seward Johnson will make up to seven castings of a design, and only as ordered.
Therefore, although there are now many Sold Out editions, some works will
only be made once. When the full seven are purchased by colectors, the artist
invites all seven owners to the foundry to celebrate the ceremonial destruction
of the mold.
-Is there are book on this artist?
There is a book on Seward Johnson's work titled "Celebrating the
Familiar". This may be available either at your local bookstores,
or library. If you have difficulty finding a copy, you can call the artist's
Curator in Santa Monica, CA and order a copy. Please choose "ContactUs"
above and call or write us.