Eastman Johnson Biography | Oil Painting
7-29-1824 Lovell, USA - 5-5-1906 New York, USABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Eastman Johnson was apprenticed when he was sixteen years old to a Boston lithographer. The youthful Eastman Johnson at age nineteen moved to Washington, D.C., and he supported himself by making colored pencil portrait drawings. He even managed to draw ex-president John Quincy Adams and Dolly Madison. Three years later he returned to New England, settling in Boston in 1846 at twenty-two years old.
In 1849, Johnson sailed to Düsseldorf, Germany, for further studies, this city had become a new hot center where many Americans went to study art. Two years later, Eastman Johnson moved to The Hague, where he studied the seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish masters. He ended his European travels to Paris, studying with the Academic painter Thomas Couture, but due to the death of his mother in 1855, he returned to the United States.
In 1856, he went to Superior, Wisconsin to visit his sister Sarah and her family. Needing to travel through Indian territory, he met a guide who was mixed Ojibwe Indian and African-American, he took Johnson among the native Ojibwe Indians in the areas around Lake Superior, and throughout 1857 Johnson frequently painted the Indian tribes.
By 1859, Eastman Johnson had returned to the East and established a studio in New York City. He secured his reputation as an American artist that year with an exhibit at the National Academy of Design featuring his painting, Negro Life in the South, also known as, Old Kentucky Home. That same year Johnson was elected as an Associate member of the National Academy of Design and became a full Academician the following year.
Johnson's style is realistic in both subject matter and in execution. Later works show influence by the seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish masters, who he had studied while in Europe. Jean-François Millet also had an influence on him as can be seen in Eastman Johnson's The Cranberry Harvest, Island of Nantucket, compared to Millet's The Gleaners, but the emotional tone of the two works is different.
Eastman Johnson's subject matter included portraits of the wealthy and influential, from the President of the United States, to literary figures, to anonymous people. He is best known for his artworks of ordinary individuals in everyday scenes. Johnson often repainted the same subject changing style or details.