Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

Portrait of Sea Captain John Murphy

ca. 1810 Joshua Johnson oil on canvas 21 1/2 x 17 1/2 in. (54.6 x 44.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Leonard and Paula Granoff 1983.95.57 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing

Exhibition 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.


Occupation - transportation - captain

Portrait male - Murphy, John


folk art

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

More works in the collection by
Joshua Johnson