Lisa N. Peters
Convivial, amiable, and sociable, the prominent late nineteenth-century American genre scene painter Eastman Johnson took natural delight in children. He focused on this subject in the years following the Civil War, a time when images of youthful pleasures and innocence grew in popularity among American audiences. Such portrayals, by artists including Winslow Homer and John George Brown, represented the possibility of renewal and hope desperately desired to heal the country from the searing impact of the Civil War.
Johnson’s interest in children, however, was also heightened by his personal life. He was considered middle aged when he married in 1869 (age 45) and his one child, a daughter named Ethel, was born in 1870. The artist reveled in his domestic life, enjoying evenings around the fireplace with his wife, and days of watching his daughter at play with her little friends, several of whom were his subjects in views of the interiors and outdoor scenes that he painted on Nantucket Island, where he built a summer home in 1870.
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