Eastman Johnson: Painting Children

Carte de Visite of Eastman Johnson

"Carte de Visite of Eastman Johnson," ca. 1865, Brooklyn Museum of Art Library Collection, Schweitzer Gallery Files

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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Noteworthy Events

In the Gallery and Beyond

Teo Gonzalez, Drawing 237

Teo Gonzalez, "Drawing 237," 2010, mixed media on paper, 12-1/4 x 12-1/4 inches, signed, dated and inscribed on verso: "Teo / Drawing 237 / 2010"


Spanierman Modern: From March 23 to April 24, 2010 Spanierman Modern will present Teo González, an exhibition of twenty-two new works in oil and mixed media on canvas and paper by the Spanish-born artist, who moved to the United States in 1991. While retaining his minimalist approach, González’s new work represents a conscious shift in his art. According to the artist, “After eighteen years of attempting to control weather and physics, I decided to take a year off to step back and think of how to make my work more efficient. After a few months I realized that I had to change the process. I decided to eliminate the drops and to paint them instead. This has been a fascinating twist for me.”

A catalogue accompanying the exhibition includes an interview with the artist and color illustrations of eight works in the exhibition.

Please Note: an opening for the artist will be held Tuesday, March 23 from 6 to 8 pm. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing American Stories

John George Brown - The Reluctant Bride, 1869

John George Brown (1831-1913), "The Reluctant Bride," 1869, oil on canvas, 27 x 20 inches

Lisa N. Peters

With the painting and sculpture galleries of the Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing remaining closed for renovation until 2011, the exhibition American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915 (on view until January 24) is well timed.  The 103 paintings on view, dating from colonial times to the early twentieth century, consist of both icons of American art history and some works that have rarely been brought out of museum storage.  Excluding images based on history, myth, or literature, the show includes paintings in which artists told tales about their time and considers the encoded messages within them, about culture, politics, social hierarchies, and historical contexts—such as the Civil War and the period of reconciliation that followed it.

Some paintings at the gallery can be looked at in the same way.  Among them is John George Brown’s The Reluctant Bride (1869) (left). The subject wears an elegant wedding gown, but her melancholic expression conveys her wariness about her imminent nuptials.  While a servant finishes tying the bride’s dress, she perhaps muses on the loss of her childhood.  Can a message be read into this painting of 1869?  Read the rest of this entry »

J. G. Brown makes the New York Times (1912 and 2009)!

"The Listings: Dec. 4-Dec. 10," "New York Times," December 4, 2009, C24.

"The Listings: Dec. 4-Dec. 10," "New York Times," December 4, 2009, C24.

Lisa N. Peters

Shown in the prime spot in an oversized illustration in the Times’ “Friday Listings” (December 4, 2009, C24), J. G. (John George) Brown’s Card Trick (1880-89, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha) was chosen to represent the exhibition American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until January 24, 2010.  The show includes the works of iconic figures in American art history such as Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, William Merritt Chase, and John Singer Sargent.  Brown’s place in this illustrious company, and the selection of his painting for the Times, suggests  that the time is right to consider the relevance of his art within the context of his era.  Times art critic Roberta Smith’s comment, “It’s a thrilling, illuminating show,” used in the caption, suggests the way that this exhibition allows such new perspectives. Read the rest of this entry »


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