American
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Eastman Johnson (American, 1824–1906),
Child with a Rabbit , 1879
oil on panel, 14 x 11 ¾ in.; 35.56 x 29.85 cm
Museum Purchase, 1946.32

After achieving success as a portrait painter, Johnson enrolled in Düsseldorf’s academy, the choice of many mid-nineteenth-century American artists. Like the Parisian academy, Düsseldorf’s emphasized precise draftsmanship, smooth finishes, and anecdotal subjects. After his return home, Johnson specialized in intimate scenes of everyday life, paintings that, as the horrors of the Civil War dominated the national agenda, satisfied America’s nostalgia for a simpler time. In the 1870s Johnson painted several portraits of his daughter, Ethel, with her favorite pet. With their dark colors, strong textures, and subtle yet wholly realistic portrayals of childhood devotion, these paintings are considered some of the most sophisticated Johnson produced.

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