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Eastman Johnson
Date: 1824 - 1906
Jonathan Eastman Johnson
Remarks: Eastman Johnson began working as a portraitist while still in his teens. His first sitters were his neighbors in Maine but when his father's work took the family to Washington, DC, about 1844, he began doing portraits in the Senate Committee Rooms. In 1846 he moved to Cambridge, MA where he received commissions from people in the Longfellow and Emerson literary circle. In 1849 he went to Europe where he studied at the Royal Academy under Emanuel Leutz in Dusseldorf. He spent three years in The Hague studying the Dutch Masters, and then spent several months in Paris under Thomas Couture before returning to the United States in 1855. Although he never gave up portraiture, the next twenty-some years were given over to painting the genre pictures that appealed so strongly to the Victorian public. In 1859 he settled permanently in NYC, and in the 1870's the Johnsons began to summer on Nantucket Island. Early in the 1880's Johnson's emphasis shifted back to portraiture where he continued to be successful and in demand. Among his commissions were John D. Rockefeller, William H. Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, and President Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. Couture advised students to make preliminary sketches or studies for their work, and Johnson followed his advice.