Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Antebellum Maryland

Fridays, October 23-November 20, 2020


Instructor: Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

Location: Via Zoom for the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, MD

Format: Lecture & discussion
This 5-week course is offered in conjunction with Shepherd University’s Lifelong Learning Program.

WCMFA patrons can register below or by calling the Museum; Shepherd University students must register here with Karen Rice, Shepherd University Lifelong Learning Program; fee- $60; enrollment limited to 30.


About the class
Often considered the first professional African-American artist, Joshua Johnson (ca. 1763-1824) achieved a remarkable degree of success as a portraitist in his lifetime by painting affluent patrons in his native Baltimore. Johnson’s subjects consisted of politicians, lawyers, doctors, clergymen, merchants, and sea captains. Given his background and the era in which he lived, Johnson was impelled to overcome many racial and social hurdles in pursuing his profession, and the fact that we study his work today is a testament to his perseverance.
Leading up to the WCMFA’s forthcoming special exhibition Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore (April–November 2021), this course provides an overview of Johnson’s work and career with a focus on portraits from the collections of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and other museums. This course uses these works of art to investigate meaning and aesthetic considerations in Johnson’s work while placing him in his broad cultural and historical contexts. In addition, this class examines how Johnson’s work engages with key developments in Maryland’s artistic heritage from approximately 1760–1840. Issues related to politics, slavery, abolitionism, race, and society in antebellum Maryland also will be explored.

This course has been generously supported by an NEH CARES Cultural Organizations Arts & Humanities Programming & Virtual Access Grant.


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