About Seward Johnson

Formative Years

Seward was born on April 16, 1930, in New Jersey. He is the son of J. Seward Johnson Sr. and Ruth Dill and the grandson of Robert Wood Johnson Sr.—one of the founders of Johnson & Johnson. 

By the age of six, he had lived in London, Paris, Bermuda and New Mexico. Seward and his family lived at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico where they befriended iconic American artists Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. Seward loved the pleasures the Santa Fe desert afforded him and his siblings. As a teenager, he attended the Forman School, a boarding school in Connecticut dedicated to educating students who were struggling in traditional schools. Seward had been diagnosed with dyslexia and the Forman School offered a supportive education designed for dyslexic students. During Seward’s time there, Albert Einstein, who was also dyslexic, was an academic adviser to the school.

In 1950, while attending the University of Maine, Seward interrupted his schooling to enlist in the U. S. Navy. He served for four years during the Korean War. One day, while aboard a U.S. ship in the Wonsan Harbor in North Korea, Seward faced his mortality. In late 1954, Seward’s four-year stint with the Navy ended. Confident, older, and stronger, he set out on a 2,200-mile canoe trip from western Alberta to the upper edge of the Northwest Territories on the Arctic Ocean. 

The Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture

Seward founded the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in 1974 to help sculptors retain control over their artwork and gain access to previously guarded production techniques.

The Johnson Atelier rapidly became an incubator for the advancement of art and technology. From all over the world, artists gathered at the Johnson Atelier to collectively advance all phases of production.

This gathering of artists provided a stimulating and sometimes unorthodox environment in which everyone’s artistic practice could bloom through collaboration, dialogue, and discovery.

The Artist

With the birth of his son, a sense of urgency fell upon Seward Johnson to find a career. He had taken up painting, but wasn’t satisfied. At the suggestion of his wife, Cecelia Joyce, he enrolled in a sculpture class. It was an inauspicious start. Impatient, Seward got up and walked out widway through the class once the professor began discussing theory. He never took another sculpting class.

While working on his first sculpture, Seward began to search for someone to cast his first piece. He was introduced to Joel Meisner, who owned a foundry in New York. Seward hired him. Upon seeing his sculpture cast in metal, he realized he had found his life’s work. Competing against 11,000 entries, his first cast work of sculpture won the Design in Steel Art Award.

Today, Seward is renowned globally for his monumental and life-size bronze figurative sculptures. His work is exhibited internationally and included in numerous private collections, museums and public art collections.

Grounds For Sculpture

In 1992, Seward founded Grounds For Sculpture on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds as a natural extension of the Johnson Atelier. Hundreds of artists studied and produced work at the Atelier, so Seward saw the potential of the neighboring bygone fairgrounds as a place where artwork could be sited within the landscape, and visitors could delight in discovering contemporary sculpture

Learn More

Awards: Seward was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2013, and was the recipient of the International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. You can read the full Sculpture magazine article on Seward Johnson by clicking here.

Learn more about Seward Johnson by visiting the That’s Worth Celebrating: The Life and Work of the Johnson Family at Grounds For Sculpture.

More information on what these artist founded organizations are doing today visit: Johnson Atelier and Grounds For Sculpture.