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

Guide to the Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné

Historical sources used to identify works and create catalogue entries

The first source that Patricia Hills began recording for the Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné (EJCR) entries was “The General Catalogue,” included in John I. H. Baur’s seminal exhibition catalogue, An American Genre Painter: Eastman Johnson, 1824-1906, 1940. A Yale-trained art historian, at that time Baur made numbered entries “for as many of the paintings and drawings by Eastman Johnson as could be located in the limited time preceding” the exhibition. The total came to 491 works published in the catalogue, based on pages from three notebooks Baur had carefully annotated with date, media, dimensions, and owner. Following publication, he added some new entries to his notebooks; these works have been included in the EJCR. (See Baur, Archives of American Art.)

Another major source was Henry Tuckerman’s 1867 Book of the Artist: American Artist Life Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists: Preceded by an Historical Account of the Rise & Progress of Art in America, in which Tuckerman wrote a lengthy essay on Johnson and mentioned twenty-one specific paintings. At the end of his book, Tuckerman listed the major art patrons of his time along with the works of art each owned. The patrons owning Johnson works were G. W. Riggs, Rev. H. W. Beecher, William T. Blodgett, J. L. Claghorn, A. M. Cozzens, R. M. Olyphant, R. L. Stuart, August Belmont, J. Taylor Johnston, Marshall O. Roberts, Gen. John A. Dix, the late Col. Wilder Dwight, Robert Hoe, J. Harrison, and J. C. McGuire; the total of Johnson works owned by this group numbered 28.

In 1907, the year following Johnson’s death, his widow, Elizabeth Buckley Johnson, arranged for the American Art Galleries to hold an auction of 151 works, primarily the paintings left in his studio at the time of his death that had not been set aside for the families of Johnson’s siblings. In the EJCR the catalogue is referred to as the 1907 Estate Sale. Included are numbers for each entry, a lengthy description, the placement of a signature, and measurements. Baur gave Hills access to his copy, which also included pencil notations of all the auction sale prices (without the “$” sign), and sometimes the buyer, e.g. "[810.00/Thos. H. Hubbard]". It is unknown who wrote the notations; perhaps W. B. Cogswell, married to one of Johnson’s nieces, whose name appears in many of the entries. The author of the catalogue descriptions probably worked for the auction house, but may also have been Mrs. Johnson or a collaborative effort with Mrs. Johnson—using language calculated to enhance the marketability of the works. About seventeen descriptions and/or titles include racist language and negative stereotypes; such works have been flagged for the viewer, and in many cases a more relevant description by Hills has been given precedence. 

Mary Bartlett Cowdrey in her study, The American Academy of Fine Arts and American Art-Union, 1953, listed the works that Johnson sent for exhibition at the American Art-Union while he was abroad. Titles were also gleaned from the compilations of the annual exhibitions held at the National Academy of Design in the years from 1856 to 1900. Newspapers and journals contemporary to the artworks often carried news of works on exhibition, up for sale, or on view in Johnson’s studio.

For the 1999 retrospective exhibition of Johnson’s work, Eastman Johnson: Painting America, held at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Julie M. Douglass compiled the “Lifetime Exhibition History,” which filled in a large number of known exhibitions with Johnson titles for the years of his lifetime. 

In the twentieth century art galleries often featured the works of Johnson. One catalogue published by Kennedy Galleries in 1920 listed all the drawings on exhibition, plus a checklist of known (at that time) works by Johnson. Unfortunately, the information published was limited to titles only; hence, such lists were mostly useful only to the exhibition histories of particular works. Other exhibition and auction house catalogues of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were consulted at the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, which also had an extensive file of photographs of Johnson works. Catalogues of art galleries in the twenty-first century are often immediately available online. 

Most importantly, for the last 50 years, Hills has been reviewing rediscovered works brought to her attention by gallerists, owners, and auction houses. These occasions have allowed for a close examination, often with the use of an ultraviolet light, of the fronts and backs of paintings including signatures, as well as taking measurements. In some instances, she has had the opportunity to consult with a conservator experienced in examinations of Johnson’s work. Abigael MacGibeny has also found new works through a variety of sources. —PH

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Catalogue page

The Catalogue page is the doorway to all of Johnson’s works. By default, the works are displayed by Hills number. At any time you can sort all works by Hills no., Date, and Title.

The Catalogue page offers several other ways to explore Johnson’s work:

- Browse by theme

- Filter by Classification (currently Paintings, with Drawings and Prints to be added in the near future)

- Filter by Decade when the works were created

- Filter by Locale depicted in the work, which generally corresponds with where Johnson created the work

- Filter by Keyword

You can combine filters to refine your search. For example, you can choose to see only paintings done 1870–79 depicting Nantucket, Massachusetts. —AM

Classifications

Johnson's body of work includes paintings, drawings, and prints. Currently paintings are shown on the EJCR website. Drawings and prints will be added in the near future.

Classifications are based on the medium used. All of Johnson's paintings were done in oil on a support of canvas or some type of board. Most of his drawings were done on paper. His works in pastel or ink on canvas are classified as drawings.

The classifications are searchable using the Classifications filter on the left side of the Catalogue page. You can combine the Classification search with other searches using the other filters; for example, you can choose to see paintings done from 1870 to 1879 by using the Classification and Decade filters together. You can also see the classifications organized by their subject matter themes on the Works by theme page. AM

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Themes

In the EJCR, Johnson’s work is organized by subject matter theme. These themes are roughly chronological, providing a progressive view of the ways in which the artist’s interests and oeuvre developed, as well as the different locations where he was working throughout his career. His earliest paintings were genre scenes created during his sojourn in Europe (Düsseldorf, Germany and The Hague, The Netherlands); his late paintings were primarily portraits created in New York.

Within the Catalogue page, you can find themes two ways:

 - Click the “Browse works by theme” link at the top of the page to see a full listing

- Select the Themes filter on the left side of the page to narrow down your search to individual themes. AM

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Individual catalogue entries

Numbering

Each artwork in the EJCR is assigned a Hills number. Each Hills number consists of three parts: theme number, then subtheme number, and finally sequence within the subtheme. For example, Self-Portrait, owned by the National Academy of Design, is assigned Hills number 32.2.1. Theme 32 designates self-portraits, the subtheme 2 denotes those works made in the United States, and Self-Portrait is the first in the sequence.

    • Themes represent the major types of subject matter in Johnson’s work, which generally correspond to dates and locations where he worked. Among his paintings, those made while he was a young artist studying in Europe from 1849–55 come first in the catalogue, while portraits, which he made throughout his career but which constituted his primary subject matter late in his career, come toward the end.
    • Sub-themes represent variations within types of subject matter. For example, Johnson’s paintings of Nantucket life made during the years in which he spent his summers in Nantucket, Massachusetts, are organized into seven subthemes, such as 26.1 Nantucket Genre—Indoors, 26.2 Nantucket Genre—Outdoors, and 26.3 Nantucket Cornhusking.
    • Sequence: Within a subtheme, artworks generally are numbered chronologically (with inscribed dates coming before circa dates), and then by size (smaller to larger), keeping like subjects together for visual continuity. Portraits are sequenced alphabetically by name (last, first), then by date, then by size.

Some works have different works on their versos. In these cases, each of the two works is assigned to a theme based on its own subject matter, and "r" and "v" are added to their respective Hills numbers to designate each as either the recto or the verso.

After the initial publication of the EJCR, original Hills numbers are retained even if newly discovered information changes the parameters by which the numbers were assigned. In the future, newly added works will be assigned new numbers at the end of the themes to which they are assigned. If a work were to be removed from the catalogue, its Hills number would be removed and not reused.

Two other types of catalogue numbers are featured prominently with artworks in the EJCR. The 1907 Sale number is shown in the entry for any work that was offered in the 1907 sale of Johnson’s estate by the American Art Association. The Baur number is shown in the entry for any work catalogued in John I. H. Baur, An American Genre Painter: Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906, 1940. The Concordance that is part of the EJCR lists all artworks with their Hills, 1907 Sale, and Baur numbers for quick reference.

Numbers from other catalogues raisonnés may be included within artwork entries. For example, the entry for a Johnson work once owned by Maxim Karolik that is listed in M. & M. Karolik Collection of American Water Colors & Drawings, 1800–1875, 1962, will show that catalogue with its own catalogue number for the work under Text References. AM

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Title

Titles used in the 1907 sale of Eastman Johnson’s estate—the largest sale ever of his work and one connected directly to his studio—are used as main titles for all works included in that sale. For other works, historical titles are used: those given by Johnson or used in exhibitions and period publications during his lifetime. In the absence of 1907 sale or historical titles, main titles are those used by museums and other public institutions, John I. H. Baur, Patricia Hills, or auction houses or galleries, in that order.

Portraits are titled with the names of their sitters. When known, historical titles are used, followed by the sitter’s name in parentheses. The married names of women are included in addition to their surnames at birth, unless it is known that their portraits were done prior to their marriages.

Occasionally historical titles are updated for accuracy and appropriateness. The cataloguers are mindful of racist language and negative stereotypes used in historical sources; see the Racist Language/Negative Sterotypes Statement. Descriptive titles are given when no other is available.

If the main title of a work in the EJCR differs from the title used by an institution that is the present owner, the institution’s title is presented immediately beneath the EJCR main title.

Over time, many of Johnson’s works accumulated different titles as they moved through exhibitions, sales, and public and private collections. Alternate titles are listed beneath the main title, as well as within the Exhibition History and Text References, with the dates those titles were used, when known.

When a work may have been shown in an exhibition or listed in a publication, but the identification is not certain, the title used in the exhibition or publication is included with the qualifier “possibly.” —AM

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Date

There are three types of dates: inscribed, circa, and evidence.

Inscribed dates in Johnson’s hand on the surfaces of works are considered authoritative. Johnson typically would fully sign and often date works for exhibitions, commissions, and sales through galleries and auction houses. 

Circa dates are estimates, based on factors including:

    • Locale. The place depicted and/or the location where Johnson was working may suggest a circa date. See Chronology for more information.
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    • Direct relationship to another work. For example, a work may be given a circa date that is the same as the inscribed date of another version, and a study may be given an earlier circa date than the inscribed date of the finished work.
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    • Subject matter, style, or technique. A work’s circa date may be based on the dates of other works to which it bears a resemblance in Johnson’s subject matter, style, or technique, all of which changed over time.
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    • Portrait sitter appearance and relationship. In the case of undated portraits, a circa date may be based on the life dates and apparent age of the sitter, or years when Johnson and the sitter may have been in contact.
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    • Exhibition date. When a work is known only from having been exhibited during Johnson’s lifetime, then the date of the exhibition generally serves as the circa date of the work.

Evidence dates may be certain or circa, and typically come from texts by reliable sources. These include Johnson’s correspondence; diary references by patrons and sitters; and historical newspaper articles mentioning that Johnson is working on or has recently completed a particular work. The rationale for evidence dates is explained in the catalogue entries. —AM

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Locale

Locale refers to the location depicted in a work, which often (but not always) coincides with Johnson's location when he created it. For example, Johnson sketched his maple sugar pictures in Maine and his cranberry pictures in Nantucket, but may have completed finished paintings of those scenes in his studio in New York; in these cases the locales are listed as Maine and Nantucket. Locales are searchable using the Locale filter on the left side of the Catalogue page.

Note that Locale is different from the "Euro" and "U.S." locations that appear in the names of themes (e.g., 30.3 Euro Portraits, Women), which refer specifically to the locations where the works were created. —AM

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Medium

Johnson did not start painting in oils until he arrived in Düsseldorf for training in 1849. He spent two years there, studying at the Academy and working in Emanuel Leutze’s studio. In 1851 he moved to The Hague in order to study the Old Masters, especially Rembrandt, who had mastered the technique of using light and dark hues to represent figures moving out from the shadows and to highlight the foreheads (as the source for intellectual thought). However, four years later Johnson was drawn to Paris by the presence of painter Thomas Couture, whose independent studio was filled with American students, and whose manual, Méthode et entretiens d’atelier, made an impression on the Americans. Couture taught that the artist must first indicate the darkest darks and the lightest lights so that the mid-tones would be accurate. Sometimes, especially in interior scenes, Johnson used the brown underpainting to represent the mid-tones of the figures and other objects. Like Couture, Johnson also used the technique of scumbling—of dragging light-hued paint over a surface of partially dried paint in order to create highlights and texture. (See also Albert Boime, The Academy and French Painting in the Nineteenth Century, New York, 1971). The result of the use of the underpainting for mid-tones and the layer of scumbling often meant an uneven surface to his work. Inexperienced “restorers” have often tried to fill in what appears to be thin painting in many passages.

Another characteristic of many of Johnson’s figure paintings and portraits are light graphite lines outlining the edges of the figure, the silhouette of a cheek or nose, and lips. This suggests that Johnson may have used some sort of method to transfer an image on paper to the support. One such drawing on tracing paper exists, but more research needs to be done on his techniques.

As to the support: Johnson often worked on artist’s composition board, a board made from wood pulp and that came in large sheets that could be cut down to smaller sizes. This support was especially used for his studies of the Maine maple sugar harvest during the 1860s, his studies of the cranberry harvest in the 1870s, and other small pictures. Often such supports have irregular measurements and rugged tops. During the late 1880s many artist supply companies were experimenting with such supports. When a documentary source reports that the support is “academy board,” that term has been retained, however, that is a trademark for one company’s paper/pulp board, and I have not seen any trademark stamps on the versos of such paintings. Such paper/pulp board paintings have a slightly rough surface. It has been suggested by some conservators that the roughness has come from the aging of the support and its chemical interaction with the paints Johnson used.

I have found no instances of a Johnson painting on wood panel. For large paintings that he sent off to exhibitions such as The Old Stage Coach, and that he made on commission were often painted on canvas. —PH

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Dimensions

Dimensions of artworks are expressed in inches as well as centimeters. Height precedes width. Dimensions represent the unframed work unless otherwise indicated. When Hills has personally measured a work, her dimensions are used. Otherwise, dimensions from the most credible available source are used. Sources may include institutional owners and private collectors, John I. H. Baur’s 1940 catalogue An American Genre Painter: Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906, exhibition catalogues, and galleries and auction houses. —AM

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Inscription

Sources for inscriptions on paintings come from Hills’s examination notes and photographs and information supplied by owners. When possible, Hills or MacGibeny photographed the inscription and such photos are included in the entries.

Almost from the beginning of his career as an oil painter, Johnson dropped his first name “Jonathan” from his signature and signed his pictures “E. Johnson.” For pictures that were commissions or that he sent to exhibitions, one can assume his hand painted “E. Johnson” at either the right or left corners. Year dates are often included, placed slightly lower than his name. The inscription “E. J.” is more problematical. While Johnson certainly signed many with initials, a great number of the initials were probably added by another hand, especially the works included in the Anderson Galleries Estate Sale of 1907. At the time of the Brooklyn Museum’s 1940 retrospective, the conservator Sheldon Keck examined a number of such initialed paintings and concluded that the widow had probably added the initials, sometimes in red paint. See Sheldon Keck, “The Technical Examination of Paintings,” Brooklyn Museum Journal 2 (1942), pp. 71–82.

In the 1880s Johnson began to flatten the tops of the “8” numbers, especially for the inscriptions on oil portraits. This variation is noted in the entries.

Since many of Johnson’s paintings have darkened over the decades, inscriptions may be difficult to see with the naked eye. This has been noted in the entries.

The backs of paintings sometimes have scrawled titles along with “by Eastman Johnson” or “by Johnson.” Such inscriptions are only rarely done in Johnson’s own hand. The presence of a small plaque attached to a frame is no guarantee that the work was done by Johnson. —PH

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Remarks

Remarks provide background and context for individual artworks. They include quotations from historical sources (visual descriptions from the catalogue of the 1907 sale of Johnson’s estate and other sales, quotations from historical correspondence and exhibition reviews, etc.) as well as commentary by Hills and MacGibeny highlighting features of the works and their histories. Remarks are dated and presented in reverse chronological order to give prominence to the most recent perspectives. Catalogue entries whose historical quotations contain what we today realize is racist language or reinforcement of negative stereotypes also include links to the Racist Language/Negative Stereotypes Statement. AM

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Provenance

Provenance—the chain of ownership of a work of art—is synthesized from a variety of sources, including: first-hand knowledge of current owners’ works; records of institutional and private collectors; sale catalogues; gallery and auction house stockbooks and sales logs; historical publications listing ownership; historical correspondence; and inscriptions and letters written by Johnson. The credibility of each source is considered, and due diligence is done to corroborate provenance with additional sources and supporting evidence. This work is ongoing.

In some cases in which ownership is possible but not certain (for example, when it is known that a particular collector owned a painting with a certain title, but it could have been any one of multiple versions of a painting with that title by Johnson), the EJCR purposely presents possible owners with the qualifier “possibly” in order to encourage further research.

If it is known that a work was with the gallery or dealer on consignment, and that they did not own the work, their name will be shown in brackets. It is not always known whether a gallery or dealer owned a work or had it on consignment.

Dates indicated are as precise as possible in order to highlight continuity and gaps in the currently known provenance.

Certain sources were considered authoritative for the purposes of the EJCR:

    • 1907 Estate Sale catalogue notations: Johnson scholar John I. H. Baur gave Hills access to his copy of the catalogue of the 1907 sale of Johnson’s estate, including penciled notations of the names of buyers.
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    • John I. H. Baur, An American Genre Painter: Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906, 1940: Baur’s catalogue of Johnson’s work, written to supplement the catalogue for his 1940 exhibition of Johnson’s work at the Brooklyn Museum, listed owners. Although it is possible that in some cases he was reporting earlier ownership, pending more specific evidence of dates, their ownership is shown here as “by 1940.”

Considerable effort has been made to locate works whose whereabouts have been unknown, and many collectors have agreed to be listed as the present owners. In some instances private individuals and institutions have stated that they do not want their names displayed in the provenance. The EJCR team respects their wishes and has used the term “private collection.” However, if their ownership has been previously recorded in a publicly available publication, that information is included.

The digital format of the EJCR enables provenance to be updated as more research is conducted and artworks change hands in the future. AM

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Hills examination/opinion

Unique to the EJCR are Hills’s examination notes and her letters to owners of paintings, which point out the characteristics of a work that are typical of Johnson’s hand. —PH

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Keywords

Keywords connect works that share common characteristics. For example, the subject matter keyword “musicians” brings up a group of entries where Johnson depicts people playing or holding musical instruments, regardless of theme. Keywords named for portrait sitters will display all portraits of those individuals; there are also keywords for families. “Inscription type” keywords link works that share a similar style of signature. Keywords enable visual and thematic comparisons and illuminate Johnson’s interests and methods. —AM

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Images

Extensive effort has been made to provide images of as many Johnson works as possible. Images have been obtained from institutions and private collectors, and photographs taken by Hills and MacGibeny are included as well. For some works an image is in the process of being added, and its placeholder is labeled "Image pending." For other works, especially very early works known from historical documentation only, no image is available. —AM

Collections

Collections containing works by Johnson are listed alphabetically by name, and also may be sorted alphabetically by country. You can filter the collections further by using the side menu to select Name (by first letter), Ownership History (present or past collection), and Country. When the United States is selected, a list of states appears to narrow down your search. Private collections which have requested anonymity are not listed under Collections unless their ownership has been previously recorded in a publicly available publication. —AM

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Exhibitions

Exhibitions of Johnson's work are listed chronologically. You can sort the list by abbreviation (organizer’s name), location and title. You can also filter the list to narrow it down by decade and country. Click on the name of an exhibition for more information, including all of the Johnson works included in that exhibition.

The major exhibitions of Johnson’s work include:

1907: Century Association, New York, Memorial Exhibition of Eastman Johnson, February 9–13, 1907.

1920: Kennedy Galleries, New York, Charcoal Drawings of Eminent Americans by Eastman Johnson, June 1920.

1939–40: Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York, An American Genre Painter: Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906, January 18, 1939–February 26, 1940.

1972: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Eastman Johnson: Retrospective Exhibition, March 28–May 14, 1972.

1999–2000: Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York, Eastman Johnson: Painting America, October 29, 1999–February 6, 2000. —AM

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Literature

Literature is a bibliography containing published and unpublished references to Johnson’s works, such as books, journal and newspaper articles, unpublished manuscripts, and historical correspondence. The full list of literature is displayed by abbreviation (author), and you can sort the list by year and literature type as well. You can also narrow down your search using the Type, Decade, and Abbreviation filters on the left side of the list. View all publications by Patricia Hills using the link at the top of the list. —AM

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Resources

Resources are supplementary materials useful for understanding Johnson’s life and the context and development of his art. Current resources include a chronology of Johnson’s life and career; the essays “Art Historical Context of Johnson’s Art: Genre Painting and Portraiture” and “Technical Information on Johnson's Practices” by Patricia Hills; and the concordance, which allows you to list and compare all Johnson works according to their Hills numbers, Baur numbers, and 1907 Sale numbers. —AM

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