One of the most elegant artists of the last half of the nineteenth century, Eastman Johnson became famous for his insights into American culture and his efforts to establish the Metropolitan Museum of Art
By Alexandra A. Jopp
In the nineteenth century, esteemed American artists were often credited with titles that tied them to Europe: Thomas Moran was the “American Turner,” John Henry Twachtman was the “American Monet,” Childe Hassam was the “American Sisley,” and Eastman Johnson was granted the appellation of the “American Rembrandt.” Though such comparisons to Old World brilliance were meant as honors, American artists often rejected them and worked to create a unique style that was detached from European models. Thus Johnson, even while working in seventeenth-century Dutch traditions, painted subjects that were distinctly American.
|Fiddling His Way, 1866.|
|The Boyhood of Abraham Lincoln, 1868.|
|The Hatch Family, 1870-1871.|
|Negro Life in the South, or Old Kentucky Home, 1859.|
In 1869, Johnson married Elizabeth Buckley of Troy, N.Y., with whom he had a daughter. The following year, he visited Nantucket, Mass., and in 1871, he built a house there where he would spend his summers. In Nantucket, he worked with rural subjects and produced a series of studies of cranberry harvesting.
Over the course of his fruitful career, Johnson developed a reputation as an accomplished and adept painter of not only individual and group portraits but also urban scenes and landscapes. He had a feel for color, and his depictions of groups of farmers are often charismatic in tone. His subjects range from farm scenes to country house interiors to rural genre painting. The Dutch influence can be seen in paintings such as The Mount Vernon Kitchen (1857) and Susan Ray’s Kitchen (1875).
|The Old Mount Vernon, 1857.|
|The Mount Vernon Kitchen, 1859.|
1: Patricia Johnston, Seeing High and Low: Representing Social Conflict in American Visual Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), p. 106.
For more information please visit Questroyal Fine Art Gallery, NYC at http://www.questroyalfineart.com/