31.1 U.S. Portraits, Men
When Johnson returned to the United States, he not only painted genre paintings but he also continued to paint portraits, which gave him a steady income. After 1880 Johnson turned to portraiture almost exclusively. During the 1880s and 1890s he painted businessmen, lawyers, university presidents, and three U.S. presidents from life. At times he also painted their wives and children.
He was also commissioned to paint posthumous portraits, often from photographs. These portraits by and large do not have the sparkle and active brushwork of those done from life. It seems that the demand for portraits of business and civic leaders (and members of exclusive men’s clubs) was so high that portrait painters would often make copies of each other’s paintings to satisfy the market for such images. In many instances, it has been difficult to render opinions for such paintings. —PH
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Hills no. 31.1.129
Baur no. 228
Alternate title: The Reverend Joseph May
Oil on canvas
43 x 24 in. (109.2 x 61 cm)
Neither signed nor dated
Baur, John I. H. An American Genre Painter: Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906. Brooklyn, NY
: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences
. Exhibition catalogue (1939 Brooklyn Museum)
, p. 70, no. 228, as The Reverend Joseph May.
Sitter: May, Joseph (Reverend)
Reverend Joseph May (1836–1918). Clergyman known for preaching sermons that influenced the social reform movements. Son of Samuel Joseph, a pastor prominent in the anti-slavery cause, and Lucretia Flagge (Coffin) May. Married Harriet Charles, Johnson's sister (m. 1865); father of four children. After Harriet’s death, he married Elizabeth Bacon (m. 1891).
White, Terry James. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 1967–.
- Portrait pose:
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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. "Joseph May, c.1856–76 (Hills no. 31.1.129)." Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné. https://www.eastmanjohnson.org/catalogue/entry.php?SystemID=594 (accessed on March 31, 2023).