Published: August 3, 2021
NEW YORK CITY – The National Academy of Design announced the launch of the virtual Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné on July 29, in recognition of the anniversary of the artist’s birthday. In this first phase, the catalogue raisonné is focused on American artist Eastman Johnson’s paintings. Subsequent phases will include the artist’s drawings and prints. Founded and directed by Dr Patricia Hills, project managed by Abigael MacGibeny, and stewarded by the National Academy of Design, the Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné (EJCR) is based on Dr Hills’s decades-long research on Johnson’s artwork, which dates to the 1972 monographic exhibition of his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Celebrating the artist’s substantial contributions to the development of American genre and portrait painting throughout the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, this catalogue raisonné is a vast and intricate online resource designed to be a living archive. The website address of the Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné will be www.eastmanjohnson.org.
“The National Academy of Design is honored to serve as the steward of the Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné. Elected as an Academician in 1860, Eastman Johnson was an active and engaged leader of the National Academy community over many decades – serving as a board member, officer, and instructor – so it is especially meaningful that the academy is now able to help preserve and amplify his work and legacy for future generations. As an online resource that will be linked to essays and other critical work by contemporary scholars and historians, the EJCR will set a new benchmark for what a catalogue raisonné can be, and we are deeply appreciative of Dr Patricia Hills for her extraordinary work in bringing this to fruition,” states Gregory Wessner, executive director of the National Academy of Design.
Similar to a printed catalogue raisonné, the EJCR website provides primary information on paintings by Eastman Johnson, and subsequently will incorporate his drawings and prints. According to Dr Hills, “This information will not only aid in the connoisseurship of Johnson’s art, but will provide a multifaceted lens for examining the history of American art.” More than 900 of Johnson’s paintings are organized thematically and cataloged with their titles, dates, media, dimensions, inscriptions, current owners, provenance, exhibition history and bibliography. Many of the entries also feature quotes from historical sources, remarks by Dr Hills and MacGibeny that provide insight into the works, and Dr Hills’s examination notes and opinion letters.
Visitors to the EJCR website will be able to bookmark Johnson works, with catalog information and images, for their future reference and use. Visitors also will be able to bookmark collections, exhibitions and literature, and refer to their saved materials on return visits to the site. Johnson’s thematic areas of focus include early representations of the Ojibwe Nation in Minnesota Territory; the visual culture of the Civil War; images of Black and white people which avoided stereotypes of the time; midcentury artisans; the celebration of farmers and the agrarian communal ideal; images of the interiority of women; summertime living at the seashore; and the shift in style and content from an earlier moralizing genre painting to subject pictures with an emphasis on the spontaneous brushstroke. His portraits document networks of literary and historical figures, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his circle, as well as politicians, businessmen, and patrons who were prominent in their time, including Jay Gould, John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt and William Vanderbilt. Other portraits include those of three US presidents painted from life – Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison – and many other members of Gilded Age society and their families.
Eastman Johnson’s ties to the National Academy of Design are longstanding. He became an Academician in 1860 and participated actively in the academy’s annual exhibitions throughout the second half of the Nineteenth Century. He also served on the academy’s governing body, the council, from 1866 to 1870, as vice president from 1874 to 1876, and again on the council for a three-year term beginning in 1890. Johnson taught at the academy’s school for the academic years of 1867 and 1868. The academy is proud to become the long-term steward of the EJCR, managing future updates and keeping it available to the public in perpetuity.
The Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné has been made possible with support from Boston University, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, the National Academy of Design, and the Mr and Mrs Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts. Private collectors also have been generous contributors to the Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné Endowment Fund. The EJCR website was developed by panOpticon, whose specialized catalogue raisonné platform enables the digital collection and presentation of this rich content.
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