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Portrait of Mrs. Barbara Baker Murphy (Wife of Sea Captain)

ca. 1810 Joshua Johnson oil on canvas 21 3/4 x 17 5/8 in. (55.3 x 44.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Sol and Lillian Koffler 1983.95.56 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing

Gallery Label

Joshua Johnson, a self-trained artist and former slave, is the earliest documented professional African American painter.  His sitters were Captain John Murphy and his wife, Irish immigrants who lived in Baltimore, where Johnson painted many merchants, seamen, and their families. In these portraits—intended to hang side-by-side—the artist delighted in fine details, from the captain's artfully arranged curls to his wife's sheer lace collar.


Portrait female - Murphy, Barbara Baker - bust


folk art

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

More works in the collection by
Joshua Johnson