Eastman Johnson (1824–1906), Seated
Man, 1863, pencil on paper, John Wilmerding Collection
Skillfully drawn and expertly shaded, the figure shares the page with a brief outline of a window casement and a sketch of a woman wearing a feathered hat and a snood (hairnet). Seated in what may be a captain's chair, the young man engages the viewer directly. His boots, jacket, and high-buttoned shirt suggest a livery costume. It is possible that the youth (likely a freedman) was employed to assist with military horses, coaches, or wagons. Although drawn with great care, as if intended to serve as a preparatory sketch for a studio painting, no larger work incoporating this figure has been identified. Eastman Johnson was one of America's most acomplished genre painters. His willingness to produce images that touched on the most hotly debated issue of the day--the abolition of slavery--thrust Johnson to the forefront of those willing to address African American subjects on the eve of the Civil War.
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