By the summer of 1849, Johnson resolved to go to Europe with his friend George Hall. Although he reputedly was earning a good living with his portrait drawings, figure and genre painting attracted him and first-rate instruction in these fields was not available in the United States. Moreover, both artists realized the importance of studying the European masters at first hand. Hall and Johnson were coaxed into choosing Düsseldorf by the American Art-Union, the most important organ of artistic patronage in America in the 1840s. To raise funds for his travel, Johnson sold two drawings to the AAU and was also assured by Andrew Warner of the AAU that the organization would accept future works by him. Johnson and Hall sailed from New York on August 14, 1849, for Europe. He took classes at the Royal Academy in Düsseldorf, but records of his exact attendance are not known. He felt skilled enough by October 1950 to send two oils to the NAD for sale. In a letter accompanying the shipment he admitted he was sending the pictures “rather earlier in my practice of oils than I should otherwise do.” The two pictures, Peasants on the Rhine and The Junior Partner are long since lost. The majority of his genre paintings were done in the Netherlands, after he moved to the Hague in 1851.
(Adapted from Hills, The Genre Painting of Eastman Johnson, pp. 27–32.) —PH