Sculptor and public art evangelist Seward Johnson died on March 10, 2020 at his home in Key West, Florida. He was 89. Seward Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, had an enormous impact in his home state of New Jersey and beyond. His popular work appeals to the “everyman” – not people who, as he says, “grew up with art books.” One of his most touching and well known creations is Double Check, the life-like sculpture of a businessman on a bench that survived amid the rubble of 9/11, and that remains as a memorial.
Seward Johnson’s greatest legacy may be Grounds for Sculpture, a 42-acre art park in Hamilton, New Jersey where his own works mingle with the work of other great artists from around the world in a gorgeously landscaped setting. Over the years State of the Arts has visited Grounds for Sculpture many times: here’s a clip from 2002, where Seward gave a tour of his 3D recreation of Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles. Here’s a playlist of other times we’ve visited the park, often called a “living museum.”
In 1992, Seward Johnson talked to State of the Arts producer Susan Wallner for a Jersey Arts Podcast. He described the beginnings of Grounds for Sculpture, and how he always tried to incorporate “whimsy” into his work. Most of all, listening to Seward Johnson speak reveals the joyful and creative lover of life and beauty that he was.