Eastman Johnson

born Lovell, ME 1824-died New York City 1906
Also known as
  • Jonathan Eastman Johnson
Lovell, Maine, United States
New York, New York, United States
Active in
  • Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
  • Hague, Netherlands
  • American

Born in Maine, lived in New York City. A leading genre painter of evocative outdoor scenes, also known for family portraits and other groups that demonstrate his growth as an artist.

Charles Sullivan, ed American Beauties: Women in Art and Literature (New York: Henry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with National Museum of American Art, 1993)

Artist Biography

Born in Lovell, Maine, Eastman Johnson moved to Washington, D.C., in 1845, when his father accepted a major clerkship in the Navy Department. Eastman established his portrait career by drawing members of the Maine legislature and U.S. Senators. More formal training commenced at the Royal Academy in Düsseldorf and with history painter Emanuel Leutze. This was followed by four years in The Hague, the offer of an appointment as court painter to William III of Holland, and a few months with Thomas Couture in Paris in 1855. Johnson subsequently became a successful portrait and genre painter in New York, as distinguished as many of his patrons.

In addition to painting New York subjects, Johnson established a studio on Nantucket, shortly after his marriage in 1870, where he lived and worked during summers over the course of thirty years. His paintings of island cranberry harvests and maple sugar gathering in Maine transformed these familiar scenes into fine and popular art, creating a national awareness of extant but vanishing rural life in these New England places. The popularity of Johnson's scenes of rural labor in New England marks them as part of the widespread impulse to assign values identified with New England—independence, resourcefulness, devotion to hard work—to the entire nation.

William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)



American ABC: Childhood in 19th-Century America
June 30, 2006September 16, 2006
"American ABC" demonstrates how portrayals of the nation's youngest citizens took on an important symbolic role in the United States’ long journey toward maturity and provides a window into the everyday life of the period—the world of families, children's
Media - 1986.79 - SAAM-1986.79_2 - 133578
The Civil War and American Art
November 16, 2012April 27, 2013
The Civil War and American Art examines how America’s artists represented the impact of the Civil War and its aftermath.
A painting of a bridge made from nature.
Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture
May 14, 2021July 11, 2021
The groundbreaking exhibition Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture reveals how the influential naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) shaped American perceptions of nature and the way American

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The Civil War and American Art
The Civil War and American Art looks at the range of artwork created in the years between 1852 and 1877. Author Eleanor Jones Harvey surveys paintings made by some of America’s finest artists, including Frederic Edwin Church, Sanford Gifford, Winslow Homer, and Eastman Johnson, and photographs taken by George Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan.