David Johnson (1827 - 1908)
Oil on paper lined to canvas
4 x 6 ½ inches
Initialed and dated at lower left: DJ 76
Inscribed on the reverse prior to lining
A landscape painter based in New York City and associated with the second generation of Hudson River School painters, David Johnson was noted for his ability to delineate accurately rock formations and foliage. He was especially influenced by the work of Hudson River painters Jasper Francis Cropsey, John Casilear, and John Frederick Kensett. He also painted an occasional still life.
Johnson was born and raised in New York City, but little else is known about his early life. He studied briefly with Cropsey but said that his best teacher was nature, which he utilized in his paintings from his frequent trips to the Hudson River Valley, especially the areas around West Point and Fort Putnam.
He painted his first nature studies in 1849, and that year first received public acclaim for his work exhibited at the National Academy of Design and the American Art Union. In 1860, he was elected a full Academician.
Primarily he painted in the Northeast, doing views of the Catskills, Adirondacks, Lake George, the Hudson River and the White Mountains, where he worked in the early 1850s with a colony of artists around North Conway.
His early landscapes tend to be panoramas, rock studies, or forest interiors. In the middle of his career, he adopted a more luminist style and did tranquil marine scenes such as flowing rivers, and his later work showed Tonalist influence of the French Barbizon School with pastoral subjects. It is written that this period in his career was not much distinguished and that "Influenced by the barbizon style, his work became monotonous and less articulate." (Zellman 223)
In the 1880s, his reputation began to diminish, and by the time he died his work was virtually unappreciated. Many years later, it was re-discovered by scholars who appreciated his great skills of naturalist documentation.
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art