Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné
Patricia Hills, PhD, Founder and Director | Abigael MacGibeny, MA, Project Manager
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Catalogue Entry

Photo: Courtesy the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
43.1 U.S. Early Portrait Drawings, Men

The earliest recorded portrait drawing of a known individual by Johnson is Henry Sewell, done in Augusta, Maine, and dated November 26, 1844. Already in 1844, when Johnson was twenty, this work shows the artist's superb use of charcoal (black chalk) to highlight the lights and shadow that capture the three-dimensionality of his sitter. This talent may have been initiated from the time he worked in a lithography shop in Boston, and also the availability of mezzotints. 

The Sewell portrait also shows Johnson’s understanding of anatomy in the sitter’s facial structure. During this period, 1844–1949, Johnson almost always used charcoal (black chalk) for his portraits. Some are half-length portraits including hands, but the majority are heads (and necks) alone. He took about three days to complete a charcoal portrait. The style of the time was to present portraits in oval frames. 

See Technical Information on Johnson's Practices for a discussion of charcoal, black chalk, crayon, and pastel. —PH

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Hills no. 43.1.17
Henry Sewall
de Young Museum - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco title: General Henry Sewall
Alternate title: General Sewell [sic]
1844, November 26
Black and white chalks on brown wove paper mounted on cardboard
21 1/4 x 15 1/16 in. (54 x 38.3 cm) (sheet); 21 1/2 x 15 1/4 in. (54.6 x 38.7 cm) (board)
Signed and dated lower left on armrest, in black chalk: 1844/E. Johnson; verso, in center of mount, in graphite: G. Henry Sewall, Aged 92/Augusta, Me./Nov 26, 1844/E. Johnson, del
Record last updated March 27, 2022. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
Citation: Hills, Patricia, and Abigael MacGibeny. "Henry Sewall, 1844, November 26 (Hills no. 43.1.17)." Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné. https://www.eastmanjohnson.org/catalogue/entry.php?SystemID=1015 (accessed on October 2, 2023).