Untitled Document

Artist Biography

 Considered by many art historians to be one of the most important 19th century American artists, compared with Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins, Eastman Johnson was known to his own peers as the American Rembrandt. This was a legacy from his student days in Holland when Johnson became so enamored of the Dutch master's work that he adopted the Rembrandt's subtle palette and delicate brushstroke. The style and subject matter of the 17th century Dutch Calvinist found a natural adherent in the 19th century Maine Yankee. Upon his return from Europe he caused a minor scandal in the art world of New York in 1859 by including black figures in a composition and depicting them as equals without caricatures of any sort. That painting, Old Kentucky Home, is in the collection of the New-York Historical Society; and is considered a masterwork. The next two decades, the 1860's and 1870's, are considered to be the artist's best period. It has been said that he was heralded as the artist who could paint the American scene with honesty and freshness. Aside from his lucrative portraits, most of his subject matter depicted dignified and unpretentious rural Americans at work, at play or just sitting back and relaxing.