John G. Johnson was a lawyer and art collector. The son of a village blacksmith, Johnson was admitted to the bar before completing his formal schooling at the University of Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia he built a reputation in the developing area of corporate law, and eventually represented most of the major trusts of America's "gilded age." In the process he accumulated a fortune sufficient to allow him to form a large and historically important collection of paintings, and he also represented several other leading collectors of his day, including J. Pierpont Morgan and Henry Clay Frick. He married the socially prominent widow Ida Powell Morrell, and made biennial trips to Europe. He purchased his first Flemish painting in 1844, which was the first painting by Jan van Eyck in America, and by 1892 he listed 281 works of art in a published catalogue of his collection. By 1913 he had accumulated almost 1200 paintings, and his philosophy of collecting was based on constant selling and trading up of works. He bequeathed the collection to the city of Philadelphia, and it is housed separately within the Philadelphia Museum of Art. [Compiled from sources and references recorded on CMS]
Turner, Jane, ed. The Dictionary of Art. 34 vols. New York and London, 1996: 17:618-619.
Minty, Nancy T. Dutch and Flemish Seventeeth-Century Art in America, 1800-1940: Collections, Connoisseurship and Perceptions. Ph.D. diss, New York University, 2003:195-216, 495-638.
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