Interestingly, paintings of the the South Carolina painter William Johnson, born in 1901 in Florence, only a few years earlier than Yaghjian, also show a marked shift from realism to primitivism, as seen in the early self portrait above in contrast to the bright painting next to it, "Blind Singer." Johnson, like Yaghjian, worked for a while in New York. In 1926 he moved to Paris and was influenced by Gaugin, Soutine, and the Expressionists. He married a Danish woman and lived several years in Scandinavia. He achieved only spotty critical success during his life. He became mentally ill and spent most of his last two decades in mental institutions, dying in 1970.
Robert Pinsky on Difficult Poetry