Joshua Johnson: Freeman and Early American Portrait Painter

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Published on the occasion of an exhibition organized jointly by the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center at Colonial Williamsburg and Maryland Historical Society.

The exhibit opened at the Maryland Historical Society on September 26, 1987 and ran until January 3, 1988.

From the Foreword:

"[Joshua] Johnson typifies the situation of a number of freemen of color in Baltimore during the early National Period. He was neither unique in his racial situation nor in the manner in which he conducted his life. However, his chosen profession of painting portraits, and especially other types of ornamental painting, was not common among men of his racial background anywhere in America during these times.

Taking what can be documented and what the portraits themselves tell us...major points on Johnson emerge:

  • he was a freeman of color who worked in Baltimore from ca. 1795 to ca. 1825;
  • the people he painted in any given period were his near neighbors;
  • Johnson's earliest known subjects were members of prominent Baltimore families who also were patrons of the Peales"

1988, Carolyn J. Weekley, Stiles Tuttle Colwill, et al., 172 pp, b&w and full-color images, paperback

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