Los Angeles, ca. 1940

"World's Largest Snake" Sideshow Banner by James Monroe Johnson

Painted by James Monroe Johnson (1885-1967), Los Angeles, ca. 1940. Depicting a giant snake attacking a woman wielding a hatchet, reading "Mrs. Johnson Brings Em Back in the Raw." Oil on canvas. Inscribed "Painted by, James Monroe Johnson, c/o J. Sam Houston Studios, 5th and Los Angeles Sts., L.A," in lower right and "Fournier, 2717, W. 10 St., Studio" overpainted in lower right.

James Monroe Johnson (1885-1967) was a prominent scenic artist who spent most of his career painting backdrops for major theatre productions and films, including as a set designer for 20th Century Fox. His work frequently garnered praise from reporters and could be found throughout the United States. Johnson also occasionally performed as an actor in musical comedies. In 1915 he played a minor supporting role in Cecil B. DeMille's film Carman starring Geraldine Farrar.

Johnson's boldly painted banner originated with another notable scenic artist, Edward Fournier; the name and address of Fournier's Los Angeles studio can be found beneath the outer layer of paint. Johnson seems to have re-purposed the canvas around 1940 while working for the J. Sam Houston Studio, operated by Joseph Hamilton Huston (1869-1957), a veteran showman and co-founder of the Sells-Floto Circus.
84 x 120 in. (213.4 x 304.8 cm.)

  • Condition: Overall good condition with wear and tear appropriate for its age and use. Dry surface with some flaking to the paint; a couple of small holes in the canvas.

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September 24, 2023 12:00 PM EDT
Portsmouth, NH, US

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