This chronology, compiled from research by Patricia Hills and Abigael MacGibeny, primarily comes from reputable sources and available scholarship on Eastman Johnson or from descendants of Johnson and his siblings, and also from Johnson’s personal letters. Citations for those sources generally have not been included. For the more obscure dates chronicling his activity, those sources have been cited for the convenience of the reader. The authors welcome any reliable information, including sources, that would link Johnson to a particular place in a particular year not recorded in this chronology.
July 29: Jonathan Eastman Johnson (EJ) is born in Lovell, Maine, the second child and son of Philip Carrigan Johnson (1795–1859) and Mary Kimball Chandler (1796–1855). His siblings are Reuben Chandler Johnson (1819–1884),Judith Farnum Johnson (1821–1869), Mary Kimball Johnson (1827–1910), Philip Carrigan Johnson, Jr. (1828–1887), Sarah Osgood Johnson (1831–1865), Harriet Charles Johnson (1833–1881), and Eleanor Maria Johnson (1839–after 1905).
[Date of Johnson’s birth confirmed by the unpublished manuscript Autobiography of Philip C. Johnson, Jr., which in 1971 was in the possession of his granddaughter Elvira Lindsay Johnson (Mrs. Charles) Elbrick.]
Winter: Johnson Family moves to Fryeburg, Maine.
Johnson Family moves to Augusta, Maine. According to Philip C. Johnson, Jr.’s autobiography, EJ’s father Philip C. Johnson, Sr. “occupied several positions in the State House and gave up the position of Secretary of State to go to Washington to take the chief clerkship in the Bureau of Construction in the Navy Department.” (Johnson, Sr. would take the position in Washington later, likely in 1846.)
c. 1834–44: The family lived at 61 Winthrop Street in Augusta, now known as the Johnson-Baker-Shelton House. [Stephen May, “Eastman Johnson: Painting America,” Antiques and the Arts Weekly, January 21, 2000, p. 68C]
Moves to Concord, New Hampshire, to try his hand at business and works for Hiram S. Jones, his sister Judith’s husband, where, according to the handwritten autobiography of his brother Philip Carrigan Johnson, Jr., EJ “manifested a natural taste for drawing and painting.”
Returns to Maine. His father sends him to be trained in lithography, likely at John H. Bufford’s shop in Boston.
Relocates back home to Augusta to live with his family and turns one room of the family house into a studio.
November 26: Completes a portrait drawing of General Henry Sewall in Augusta.
Likely moves to Washington D.C. and travels occasionally to Augusta.
January 22: Finishes a portrait of Robert C. Winthrop, a Representative (Whig) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The same month, completes a drawing of John Philip Kemble as Hamlet (after Thomas Lawrence).
Makes a crayon portrait of his sister Judith’s future second husband James G. Wilson, whom he knows only slightly, in studios “in one of the committee Rooms of the Capitol” [Information provided by material culture scholar Richard Candee].
March 9: Sketches Boy and Two Men, inscribed “Washington, March 9, 1846.” The same month, finishes a portrait of Dolley Madison.
September: EJ’s father Philip C. Johnson takes position of chief clerk in the Bureau of Construction in the Navy Department and the family moves to Washington D.C., according to Philip C. Johnson, Jr.’s autobiography. Likely travels back occasionally to Augusta.
September 19–October 6: Visits Boston and draws portraits of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his circle in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
October 13–22: Completes a portrait of Longfellow’s sister Mary Longfellow Greenleaf.
Lives in Boston with a studio at Armory Hall and later in Tremont Temple [Walton 1906, p. 265]. Befriends artists Samuel W. Rowse and George Henry Hall.
February: Draws a portrait of Dr. Eliakim Morse.
Rufus Wilmot Griswold publishes The Prose Writers of America (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1847), which reproduces engravings after images of Richard Henry Wilde and Joseph Story.
Continues to live in Boston and to make portrait drawings, often in three sittings, which were sold for $25 each ($898 in 2022 U.S. dollars [Walton 1906, p. 265]).
Remains in Boston until mid-August, then prepares to leave for Europe with his friend George Henry Hall. At the urging of the American Art-Union, Johnson and Hall decide to settle in Düsseldorf, Germany, a major center for art training.
August 3: Desiring funds for his European sojourn, appeals to the American Art-Union to buy his art and sets the price of $50 ($1,842 in 2022 U.S. dollars) for an 1846 drawing called The Sweeps and $75 ($2763 in 2022 U.S. dollars) forThe Honey Moon.
August 14: Sails to Antwerp with George Henry Hall on the William Shakespeare.
September 8: The Department of State issues passport No. 2280: 5’3½”, hair brown, complexion light [Courtesy of Colonel Moore, volunteer who provided information from Smithsonian artist files].
November: Settles in Düsseldorf and enrolls in at least one course (Anatomy, with Heinrich Mücke) at the Düsseldorf Academy; see his Anatomy Class Sketchbook (Brooklyn Museum), inscribed “E. Johnson/Royal Academy of Düsseldorf/Anatomical Class./1849.”
June: In Düsseldorf, draws a pencil portrait of artist Elias Büsken (Brother Elius). During this time, his participation in the studio classes at the Düsseldorf Academy is not clear.
October: Friend George Henry Hall, dissatisfied with the Düsseldorf training, moves to Paris [see Hills 1977, p. 33].
Accepted into Malkasten, the artists’ society led by Emanuel Leutze. Sometime between 1851 and 1855, in the month of August, visits Amsterdam to do the portrait Anna Maria Vahlkamp.
January: Joins Leutze’s studio. Among the other artists working there is Worthington Whittredge.
March 25: In a letter home, describes his work on a smaller version of Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware,intended for reproduction as an engraving; also writes that during his time in Düsseldorf, has made a tour of the Rhine with excursions to Heidelberg and part of Bavaria.
June: Draws instructor Andreas Achenbach in Düsseldorf.
July: Travels to Amsterdam and then to London to see the International Exposition.
Late summer: Moves to The Hague.
Leutze returns to the United States by September of this year [See Bulletin of the American Art-Union, September 1851, p. 95].
September 24: Sister Judith marries James G. Wilson of New York. The same month, does a copy after Rembrandt (Man Reading Letter) in The Hague.
November 11: Brother Reuben marries Caroline Alexander and later moves to Gorham, Maine. He tries his hand at farming but is unsuccessful and moves to New York. (His wife dies in New York; he dies in Jersey City, New Jersey, March 1884.)
December: Paints Old Waterloo Soldier in The Hague.
During the winter of 1851–52, visits several cities in Europe, including Antwerp and Brussels, Belgium (one night); Paris/Lyons (travels through Paris at night to continue to Lyons), Avignon, Marseilles, and Corsica, France; Brescia, Leghorn (Livorno), Pisa, and Florence, Italy; Greece; Bologna (one night), Mantua, Venice, and Trieste, Italy; Vienna, Austria; Dresden and Munich, Germany [Based on a letter he wrote to George Folsom from Venice, dated March 17, 1852].
March 3: Exhibits his paintings for the first time, in Rotterdam; also shows his paintings in Amsterdam in 1952 (exact dates unknown).
Soon after March 17: Possibly visits Milan [Based on letter posted in Venice, March 17, 1852].
March 22: Goes to Gloggnitz, Austria [Based on a postscript at the end of same letter].
Late in the year, goes to Zuiderburg, The Netherlands and paints study for portrait painting of Dr. Wybrandus Hendricksz, dated 1852.
December 15–17: Exhibits his paintings in the United States for the first time, at the American Art-Union, including: The Junior Partner, 1850, Peasants on the Rhine, 1850, A Sleeping Monk, 1851, Italian Girl Reading, 1851, and An Italian Girl, 1851.
Exhibits the painting Uncle Tom and Evangeline in The Hague.
January: Remains in Zuiderburg, based on his finished portrait painting of Dr. Wybrandus Hendricksz, dated January 1853.
January 2 or February 1: Completes a portrait of Mr. Kooiman, dated “1.2.1853.”
July 14: In Dongen, The Netherlands, draws Sketching at Dongen, inscribed “Dongen July 14 .53.”
July 21: In Dongen, draws Seated Woman Peeling Potatoes, inscribed “Dongen N. Brabant / July 21. / 53.”
August 20: In Dongen, draws Windmill at the Hague inscribed “Hague/Aug.20.53.”
October 16: In Zuiderburg, draws Three Dutch Male Figures inscribed “Zuiderburg Oct. 16.53.”
November 24: In The Hague, commences a portrait drawing of Perry Belmont, the child of U.S. Ambassador August Belmont, whom he would also portray.
Accepted into Pulchri Studio, an artists’ society in The Hague.
February 8: Sister Judith Farnum Johnson Jones Wilson has a son in Hastings, New York. The same month, works on a portrait of Johanna Hubertina Augusta Wilhelmina Holtrop-Campbell.
March: Signs a charcoal drawing of Eugene Leutze (son of Emanuel Leutze): “E. J./Dusseldorf/Mch.1.1854–.”
January 5: Registers at the Paris Embassy.
March: Possibly in The Hague, where according to the Rijksmuseum, he may do his group portrait drawings of Woltera Geertruida and Frederika Augusta van Limburg Stirum and Wigbold Albert Willem and Hendrik van Limburg Stirum.
May: In Paris, does a drawing of Miss Brinkley, inscribed “Paris May 1855” and no doubt sees the spring Salon exhibition.
June 4: Draws Polly Garey in The Hague.
June 15: Draws The Picture Book, first owned by the Queen of Holland, likely in The Hague.
August: Moves to Paris and sets up studio at 14 Boulevard Poissonière [Baur 1940, p. 15]. Joins the studio of Thomas Couture, a favorite artist and teacher among the American community of artists in Paris.
September 6: Mother Mary Kimball Chandler Johnson dies.
November 7: Sets sail for the United States and listed as a “merchant” on the ship’s log, possibly because he is bringing many items of furniture purchased in The Hague. A fellow passenger, George Peter Alexander Healy, is listed as “artist.”
December: Returns to Washington, D.C. by this time; portrait drawing of Adeline Dodge Lanman, wife of Charles Lanman of the U.S. Interior Department, is inscribed “Dec. 1855.”
January: Paints portraits of his brother-in-law James Newton and Charles Appleton Packard.
February 28: Sister Sarah marries William Henry Newton, brother of James, of Washington, D.C.
March: Paints a portrait of Secretary of the Navy, James Cochrane Dobbin, in Washington, D.C.
May: Draws a pastel of Nannie McGuire (later Merrick); also draws Portrait of a Young Boy with Hoop and Stick.
Summer: Travels to Superior, Wisconsin and the Minnesota Territory.
September: Brother Reuben writes to their sister Judith Wilson in Superior, “I hear that East has gone out west on a pleasure trip.” (Apparently Reuben also traveled there with family.)
October: In Superior, paints his sister Sarah and Sarah Fairchild Dean.
Mid-November: His studio on 2nd Street in Superior is damaged in a fire [Letter from Eliab Dean to Sarah Fairchild Dean, November 22, 1856, owned by Scott Nielsen, Johnson Family descendant by marriage].
December: Paints Henry Newton, father of his brother-in-law William Henry Newton. During this visit, completes at least six additional portraits.
January: Sketches Our Camp on Kettle River.
March: Finishes a second portrait of James Newton, likely in Wisconsin.
Summer: Visits Mount Vernon, Virginia. Returns to Wisconsin.
[Mount Vernon Ladies' Association catalogue entry for Mount Vernon—1857: “Eastman Johnson worked in Washington, D.C. during the spring and summer of 1857, and while there, he visited Mount Vernon with fellow artist Louis Rémy Mignot. According to a letter dated December 1, 1906 from the artist’s widow, Elizabeth Buckley Johnson, to the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution the artist completed this study in Washington, D.C. while visiting his father, Philip C. Johnson.”]
July: Signs and dates portraits of Isaiah Merriman Clark and Mary Elizabeth Brown Rice (Mrs. Orrin Rice), a resident of the Superior area [Hills 1977, p. 49].
August 24: Draws Ken ne wa be mint, a member of the Ojibwe Nation.
August 25: Draws Sha wen ne gun, also a member of the Ojibwe Nation.
August 31: Father marries Mary Washington James, a relative of George Washington and owner of at least three enslaved people; there is no evidence that EJ attends the ceremony.
September: In Grand Portage, Minnesota, paints Margaret J. Elliott.
October 4: Draws Ojibwe Youth.
October 22: Paints Sesong enik of the Ojibwe Nation.
November: In Cincinnati, Ohio and takes a studio in the Bacon Building at 6th and Walnut Streets.
December: Signs a painting of Judah Philip Benjamin, a senator from Louisiana living in Washington, D.C. who later becomes the treasurer for the Confederacy.
At the National Academy of Design (NAD), New York, August Belmont’s extensive collection of contemporary European painting is exhibited. EJ’s Winter Scene in Holland—Landscape, Figures is the only American artwork on view.
Returns from Cincinnati to New York in the spring.
April 27: Pays $37.50 annual rent for a studio in the University Building.
Also in April, signs a portrait of Edmund Dexter, Jr., a Cincinnati resident, which he probably had taken to New York to finish.
June: Signs a portrait of Edmund Dexter, father of Edmund Dexter, Jr. (probably also begun in Cincinnati and signed later in New York). Other Cincinnati portraits also are dated 1858, such as that of Josephine Fisher Pattison.
August: Completes a posthumous portrait of Henry Augustine Washington. Also completes a painting of the Van Ness Memorial monument in D.C.
Moves to Washington, D.C. and lives briefly with his father and stepmother on F Street between 13th and 14th Streets. Shows his work in the Washington Art Association exhibition.
April: The NAD annual exhibition opens and includes EJ’s painting Negro Life at the South, which received critical praise. John Frederick Kensett acts as agent and gives Johnson $1,000 ($34,183 in 2022 U.S. dollars) for the painting; William P. Wright becomes the owner.
May: The NAD elects EJ as an Associate. EJ pays $300/year for two adjoining studios at the University Building.
August 10: Father dies.
August 18: Father's estate is appraised [Davis 1998, n42]. As a result of his legacy, the Johnson sons and sons-in-law become involved in investments.
August 20: There is a review in Ballou’s Pictorial of the Athenaeum Gallery, Boston, where Negro Life at the South was exhibited [Courtesy of Colonel Moore, volunteer who provided information from Smithsonian artist files]. This may be a smaller version of the painting previously shown at the National Academy of Design.
November: Negotiates to buy stock for the family with the bequest from his father’s estate. As a result of the investments, EJ would get one-third of $23,000 (one-third, or $87,356, of the total $262,067 amount in 2022 U.S. dollars). Such new wealth would have an impact on Johnson’s social standing among patrons.
Signs a portrait of his (deceased) mother.
In Maine, paints Barn Interior at Corn Husking Time and Study from Life, Down East.
Presents two paintings for exhibition to the Artists’ Fund Society, newly organized to aid widows and children of recently deceased artists.
April 23: The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., reports that EJ goes “West to study the Indian type”; however, no images of Indigenous people are dated to this year.
May 9: The NAD elects EJ as a National Academician, along with Emanuel Leutze, John Whetten Ehninger, Albert Bierstadt, and A. H. Wenzler.
May 21: A letter from Irving Brown states that $100 is paid for Banjo Girl (Musical Instinct) [Courtesy of Colonel Moore, volunteer who provided information from Smithsonian artist files].
Between 1861 and 1865, goes to Maine each spring to paint pictures of maple sugaring. William Walton estimates that EJ paints about forty studies and finished works on this subject.
February 2: “Eastman Johnson is in Maine making studies for a pendant for his graphic picture of ‘The Old Kentucky Home [Negro Life at the South].’ It will be a brochure of real New England life—characteristic and clever” [New York Herald, February 2, 1861, morning edition , p. 4].
April 4: The New-York Tribune notes that EJ has gone to Maine [Colonel Moore]. This is his first trip to Maine in winter or spring to paint maple sugaring pictures.
April 12: The Civil War begins with the bombardment of Fort Sumter by the Confederates.
Invited to join the Century Association, a men’s club in New York.
March 2: Joining General McClellan’s advance to Manassas, Virginia, sees the scene that inspires A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves.
Spring: Goes to Maine to paint.
July 15 : Returns to New York [Letter to friend and fellow artist Jervis McEntee].
September 17: With General McClellan at Antietam, where he followed the troops with an eye toward new subject matter.
April 8: In Maine, draws Nat Frye, inscribed “‘Big snowstorm/Already snowed/ 30 hours’ April 8.” Also draws A Drop on the Sly and other genre works with themes related to the maple sugar harvest.
July: Following the battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, sees Colonel Hiram Hayes in Maryland [Hayes 1906].
July 1: On a draft list of “all persons subject to do military duty,” EJ is listed as 145 out of 306.
Metropolitan Fair (EJ serves on the Art Committee) and Brooklyn Fair in Aid of the United States Sanitary Commission.
Hosts Artist Reception at Dodsworth Studio Building.
Plans to paint the big picture of the Maine sugaring-off festival during autumn and winter.
March 13: Writes to his patron John F. Coyle that he plans to go to Maine for a month or six weeks: “This will be my fourth annual trip for the same purpose to the wilds of the State of Maine.”
July 24: Visits Newport, Rhode Island [New York Herald, July 24, 1864, p. 4].
Plans to paint the big picture during autumn and winter of the Maine sugaring-off festival.
April 9: Civil War ends; General of the Confederacy Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant of the Grand Army of the Republic at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.
April 27: Sister Sarah dies in childbirth in Harlem, New York.
Summer: “Eastman Johnson has been passing a pleasant summer in Fryeburg, Me., making careful studies for a picture of a New England ‘sugaring off’ in the maple districts” [The Round Table, September 9, 1865].
October 24: Sister Harriet marries Reverend Joseph May in Harlem, New York; they later move to Newburyport, Massachusetts, then Philadelphia. Reverend May is a prominent member of an abolitionist family.
Begins serving on the governing body of the Council of the NAD and continues through 1870.
July 15: “Mr. Johnson has finally closed his studio for the summer and taken his departure for the wild forests and waters of Maine” [Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1866].
Joins the Union League Club of New York.
Teaches at the National Academy of Design.
In Brooklyn, signs the will of Caroline Alexander Johnson, wife of his brother Reuben, as witness, giving his address as “University Building, New York.” Caroline and Reuben, as well as sister Mary K. Johnson, live in Brooklyn [Email from Scott Nielsen, Johnson Family descendant by marriage].
Spring: Shows one of the two versions of Negro Life at the South in the American section of the Paris Exposition.
Teaches at the National Academy of Design during the fall term. By this time, buys a brownstone at 65 West 55th Street for $2,000 ($39,960 in 2020 U.S. dollars) [Real estate record and builders' guide, January–June 1881 (Brooklyn, NY: C. W. Sweet & Co.), p. 617: The Real Estate Record, June 11, 1881].
July: Critic Eugene Benson publishes a major article for The Galaxy in which he praises EJ’s paintings.
Teaches at National Academy of Design during spring term.
June 29: Marries Elizabeth Williams Buckley of Troy.
July: The newlyweds travel to Murray Bay, Canada; EJ paints Indigenous people.
Summer: Visits Nantucket, Massachusetts, a newly established summer retreat for New Yorkers. Other artists visiting Nantucket that year included William S. Tiffany, Enoch Wood Perry, and Virgil Williams [Hills 2000, p. 35].
September: Stays in the Catskills with friends and fellow artists Jervis McEntee and Sanford Robinson Gifford at the Scribner's Boarding House, near Kaaterskill Falls [Ken Myers, The Catskills, Painters, Writers and Tourists in the Mountains, 1820–1895]. In the Catskills makes studies of an abandoned stage coach, later used for the painting Old Stage Coach.
The Union League Club Annual Report of 1870 records that EJ is an officer of the Committee on Art.
January 31: A founding member of the new Metropolitan Museum and is elected as Trustee.
May 2: Daughter Ethel Eastman Johnson is born.
June 8: Brother Philip Carrigan Johnson, Jr. marries Elvira Lindsay in San Francisco and returns to New York on September 18.
September 25: Vacations in Nantucket with family.
October 30: Still in Nantucket [Letter to collector and dealer Samuel P. Avery].
Signs first major Nantucket picture—Old Stage Coach—featuring children frolicking outdoors, from the sketches made in the Catskills.
February 4: Old Stage Coach is exhibited at the Century Association, Goupil’s New York gallery, and then the Brooklyn Art Association from March 14–18. Samuel P. Avery purchases the painting then sells it to George Whitney before it was exhibited again at the annual spring exhibition of the NAD.
April, May, and summer: Returns to Nantucket, where he buys property on North Shore Hill from the Dorman and former Jethro Coffin Estates. Erects both a cottage and a studio along the cliff at North Street, now Cliff Road. Also invests in other property in Nantucket in May [Simpson 1990].
October: Continues to rent studio at University Building, now at rate of $650 per year ($15,116 in 2022 U.S. dollars).
Moves his studio to his renovated home at 65 West 55th Street.
March 3: From New York, writes letter addressed to Elliot C. Cowdin thanking him for sending a copy of Cowdin’s lecture on the “recent affairs in France” [Letter in collection of Green-Wood Historic Fund, catalog number L045].
Summer through late November: In Nantucket, according to Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror [Simpson 1990, p. 36].
Summers in Nantucket. Daughter Ethel increasingly serves as a model for his paintings.
Joins the Lotos Club, an artists’ association.
May 14: Elected Vice President of the NAD. Continues to serve as Vice President through 1876.
Summer: In Nantucket. Started to make studies for cranberry picking picture, according to Jervis McEntee's diary entry of March 24, 1874.
October 22: Signs a portrait of his sister-in-law Elvira, who visited Nantucket.
Exhibits work in the Philadelphia Centennial.
Summer: In Nantucket. By this time EJ’s studio is becoming a popular tourist attraction [See Hills 1977, pp. 144–54].
July: In his essay “On Some Pictures Lately Exhibited,” published in The Galaxy, novelist Henry James praises EJ for his technique. An excerpt reads: “Mr. Johnson has the merit of being a real painter–of loving, for itself, the slow, caressing process of rendering an object. Of all our artists, he has most coquetry of manipulation.”
According to the Union League Club Annual Report of 1876, EJ is an officer of the Committee on Art.
Paints Husking Bee, Island of Nantucket, 1876, which receives wide acclaim and is exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia. A writer for The Art Journal, May 1876, notes that Johnson’s “later paintings show us how much he has outgrown his old methods. For the brilliance and freedom of handling of this year’s picture of ‘Husking Bee’ can scarcely be compared at all with the painstaking but cramped technique that marks the ‘Old Kentucky Home.’”
Summer: In Nantucket and stays through late November [New York Herald, September 28, 1876].
October: EJ and Jervis McEntee visit commercial galleries to talk to dealers about prospects for selling their art through galleries [Carbone 1999b, p. 118, n153].
Summers in Nantucket.
August: Visits Connecticut [Puck, August 29, 1877].
October: Listed as one of many Vice-Presidents of committee which convenes meeting on October 10 at the Cooper Institute to endorse the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes [New York Times, October 11, 1877].
The Society of American Artists is formed, partly as a protest by the younger artists recently trained in Paris against the artistically conservative policies of the NAD. EJ is an early member.
August 1: In a New York Times review of the American section of the 1878 Paris Exposition, the critic writes, “The best genre picture in the American section is the ‘Corn Husking.' . . . [It is] not a realistic rendering of corn-husking . . . it is an artistic rendering . . . The subject is subordinated to the treatment.”
September: According to the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, arrives in Nantucket with family in late summer.
Visits family in Kennebunkport, Maine; paints The Barn—A Study in Browns.
May: In response to U.S. Mint request to the NAD for ideas for coin improvements, submits designs for one-, two-, and five-cent coins with cut-out centers to better differentiate the lowest denominations from higher denominations.
September–December: According to the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, arrives in Nantucket with family in late summer, as he had the year before; still there in mid-December, based on his letter to Jervis McEntee dated December 13 [Simpson 1990, p. 38].
According to the U.S. Census, resides at 65 W 55 Street: EJ, 55 years old; Elizabeth, 40 years old; Ethel, 10 years old.
November 11: Writes letter to Mr. Stedman from Nantucket.
Spring: For the NAD spring exhibition, submits only portraits. From now until 1890 all submissions are portraits, except for two Nantucket genre paintings.
Summer: Probably returns to Nantucket.
September 22: Writes to a friend that he has brought a portrait of Mrs. George Pullman to Nantucket to finish and that he will have to return to New York to present it to her.
April 6–May 6: Society of American Artists 5th Annual Exhibition shows Portrait [Lewis Einstein], owned by Mr. Einstein.
July 10: Writes letter to portrait sitter Martin Brewer Anderson, president of the University of Rochester, stating that he intends to set off for Nantucket in August.
August: U.S. President Chester A. Arthur visits Nantucket and also sees EJ’s studio.
May: Elected President of the Statue of Liberty Pedestal Fund Loan Exhibition Committee but declines office and remains a Committee member.
August 6: “Mrs. Johnson is making her summer home at Nantucket” [The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. 3].
EJ’s coin designs are struck on a provisional basis by the U.S. Mint but not circulated.
February 2: The Buffalo Times reports that EJ is appointed by President Grover Cleveland to the Assay Commission to test the coinage at the Philadelphia Mint.
March: Signs a portrait of President Cleveland, possibly on a trip to Washington, D.C.
Summer: Still spends time in Nantucket. A writer for The Century Magazine, September 1885, noted that “The island . . . has long been the ‘property’ of Mr. Johnson. The man and the place have a natural sympathy for each other. He is a chronicler of a phase of our national life which is fast passing away . . .”
Late fall: With wife Elizabeth and daughter Ethel, vacations in Europe with artist friends including George Henry Hall, Elihu Vedder, and others of their “small American artist colony” [Letter from Rome, December 22, 1885].
Likely November: Stays in Florence for three weeks in November [Letter to Charles Collins of the Century Association, December 22, 1885].
Approximately December 2–22: In Rome, based on the letter to Collins. Spends time with one of his close friends, George Henry Hall, and considers visiting Naples and Pompeii before heading to Paris to catch a ship for New York.
Exhibits at the NAD a portrait of Dr. John Call Dalton, President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Increasingly, portraits dominate EJ’s exhibited works.
EJ paints his last dated genre painting, Old Whalers of Nantucket.
March 10: The Sun reports that Worthington Whittredge’s An Old New England Kitchen “with figures by Eastman Johnson” will be sold at Ortgies & Co. General Auctioneers, 845 Broadway.
Made a Member of the American General Council for the American Exhibition in London.
More portraits dominate EJ’s output.
Becomes more involved with social clubs, the members of which provide him with a steady income from commissions.
The 1890 U.S. Census reports that EJ resides at 65 West 55th Street, with his birthdate recorded incorrectly as August 1835. Elizabeth is recorded, as well as Annie Sinclair, cook, b. 1862.
Again begins serving on the Council of the NAD, this time for a three-year term.
Vacations in Europe.
Continues to exhibit portraits in leading exhibitions.
May 1–October 31: At the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, shows six portraits, including The Cranberry Harvest, Nantucket Island [The Cranberry Harvest, Island of Nantucket] and Old Whalers of Nantucket [The Nantucket School of Philosophy].
Continues to exhibit portraits in leading exhibitions.
January 30: Passport applications processed for EJ and Elizabeth; EJ is listed as having grey eyes.
March: Exhibits two portraits at Boston’s Copley Hall at the Loan Collection of Portraits of Women for the benefit of the Boston Children’s Aid Society and the Sunnyside Day Nursery.
June: Signs a portrait of Benjamin Harrison.
August 18: In Lenox, Massachusetts, according to the New York Times, August 18, 1895: “The artists [sic], Eastman Johnson, returned to Lenox tonight from a brief visit to New-York. He has just finished a portrait of George Cabot Ward for the Union League Club. It is considered one of the best of his portrait paintings. He is at present painting a picture of the late Jay Gould for the Gould family.”
April 10: Daughter Ethel marries Alfred Ronalds Conkling. Their children are Muriel Lorillard, Ronalds Conkling, Olga Louise Gwendolyn Conkling, and Vivian E. H. Conkling.
October 28: Writes letter to George Story from Nantucket.
Vacations in Europe.
April 4: Stays in Paris [Letter to Charlotte Wilson, July 9, 1897, quoted in Baur 1940].
July 2: In Seville, Spain, sees a bullfight [Letter to Charlotte Wilson].
July 4–5: In Gibraltar, visits the galleries in the Rock of Gibraltar [Letters to his nephew Philip J. Wilson, July 7, 1897 (courtesy of Skinner, Inc.) and Charlotte Wilson, July 9, 1897 (quoted in Baur 1940)].
July 8: In Tangier [Letter to Philip J. Wilson], rides mules with his family [Letter to Charlotte Wilson, quoted in Baur 1940].
September 2: On stationery from Parker House, New Bedford, Massachusetts, writes to his nephew Philip C. Johnson, Jr. that he and Elizabeth had slept in New York the night before, having been in Southampton, New York for a few days to care for their daughter Ethel and baby Muriel, who had been ill.
Continues to exhibit at major exhibitions, including the Exposition Universelle, Paris.
Awarded the Gold Medal in the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, for the painting Embers.
Johnson continues to exhibit portraits, as well as previously painted works in genre, at major exhibitions.
April 5: Dies at his residence at 65 West 55th Street of heart failure [New York Times, April 7, 1906, p. 6; reprinted April 8, 1906, p. 9]. Services held at St. George’s Church, Stuyvesant Park. Pallbearers are Frederick Dielman, George Henry Hall, Seth Low, and J. Alden Weir.
April 27: Buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Section 50, Lot 8798, at a site probably originally purchased by Elizabeth's family.
Henry Buckley (buried April 14, 1855) was the first to be buried on Lot 8798; he may have been her paternal grandfather. Also buried on April 14, 1855 was Julia Buckley, perhaps his wife. This suggests they may have perished together in a natural disaster. Phineas Henry Buckley, Elizabeth’s father, was buried there on October 18, 1866, two days after he died. [Green-Wood Cemetery list provided to Hills; genealogical table prepared by Mary Livingston Walters, a distant cousin of Elizabeth (correspondence to Hills of December 19, 2002).]
May 5: EJ’s will is probated; bequeaths several paintings to his sisters Mary and Eleanor who survive him. The bulk of his Estate is left to his widow Elizabeth.
February 9–13: Memorial Exhibition of Eastman Johnson at the Century Association, including approximately 150 of EJ’s paintings and drawings.
February 26–27: Estate sale conducted by the American Art Association at Anderson Art Galleries. The top sale item isEmbers, which sells for $810 ($24,448 in 2022 U.S. dollars). Many works are realized for about $25 ($758 in 2022 U.S. dollars) but many for more than $100 ($3,018 in 2022 U.S. dollars).
Affiliations (partial list)
American Art-Union (reconstituted in the 1880s)
Board of Control, 1883–1884, 1884–1885
American Fine Arts Society
Artists’ Fund Society
Member elect, 1861
Elected member, 1862
Board of Control, 1865–1866, 1866–1867, 1867–1868, 1868–1869, 1869–1870
The Century Association
(all information provided by Timothy J. DeWerff, Executive Director, Century Association Archives Foundation)
Centurion, elected December 6, 1862
Admissions Committee, 1864–1865, 1873, 1880
Board of Management (Trustee), 1877–1878, 1881–1885, 1896–1897
The Fine Arts Federation of New York
Alternate Representative for the National Academy of Design, 1898–1899
Malkasten [Paintbox], Düsseldorf, Germany, 1851
Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Founder, April 13, 1870 (33 Founders listed)
Trustee, elected January 31, 1871
Fellow for Life, thereafter
National Academy of Design
Academician, elected 1860
Council member, 1866–1870, 1890–1893
Visitor to the Academy school, academic seasons 1867–1868 and 1868–1869
New York Civil Service Reform Association
Member: 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901
Incorporating member, 1888–1901
Society of American Artists
Member, elected 1878
Society of American Portrait Painters
Union League Club of New York:
Officer of the Committee on Art: 1876, 1888, 1890
Washington Art Association
Board of Managers, listed as Director (with others), 1857–1858