Nothing is known about the artist but his name. Using Bismarck, North Dakota, from the inscription on the back of the original stretcher of the National Gallery's painting, as a point of reference, one J. W. Bradshaw and four John Bradshaws were located in late nineteenth-century U.S. censuses for the Dakotas. The 1900 census for South Dakota includes a J. W. Bradshaw, age 39, who was recorded as a stock raiser in Bad River Township, Stanley County, in central South Dakota. Two men named John Bradshaw are documented as having lived in Yankton, Yankton County, South Dakota: one was a bartender who boarded there at the time of the 1880 census (when he was 24), the other a teamster who was 55 at the taking of the 1900 census. Finally, a John W. Bradshaw is listed in the 1880 census for Fort Pembina, Pembina County (now in North Dakota), six months old at the time; Crystal City in the same county was home in 1900 to John Bradshaw, a 28-year-old tinsmith. None of these can be confirmed as the artist of this portrait, however, especially since the validity of the association of the painting with Bismarck is open to question. It is known only that the artist was active in the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Chotner, Deborah, with contributions by Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn. American Naive Paintings. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 31-32.