Negro Life at the South
Negro Life at the South
Oil on linen
frame: 51 x 61 x 5 in. ( 129.5 x 154.9 x 12.7 cm ) image: 37 x 46 in. ( 94 x 116.8 cm )
Set in the back yard of a dilapidated house, a group of slaves passes the time. The composition includes several vignettes. At center is a banjo player; at his side, a little boy has halted his play to listen to the music. A woman and her two children listen and dance. At left is a courting couple and, above them, a woman and baby watch from an upstairs window. At far right, two young girls watch as an elegant white woman and her companion emerge for the grander house next door to see the activity.
The Robert L. Stuart Collection, on permanent loan from the New York Public Library
This painting is Johnson's most famous work, and established his reputation as an artist. Though originally exhibited at the National Academy in April 1859 as Negro Life at the South, it was by 1867 popularly called Old Kentucky Home with a title taken from Stephen Foster's beloved song. He most likely began his work on this painting in 1858, and the setting was the backyard of his father's house in Washington, D.C. The white woman at right has been identified as Johnson's sister.
"Sketchings. Domestic Art Gossip," The Crayon, Vol. VI, January 1859, p, 25. "Thirty-Fourth Exhibition of the Academy of Design," New York Evening Post, April 25, 1854, n.p. "Fine Arts. National Academy of Design. First Notice," The Albion, Vol. 37, No. 19, May 7, 1859, p. 225. "National Academy of Design," New York Herald, May 8, 1859, n.p. "Sketchings. Domestic Art Gossip," The Crayon, Vol. VI, April 1859, p, 125. "Sketchings. Domestic Art Gossip," The Crayon, Vol. VI, May 1859, p, 125. "The Lounger. At the Academy Again," Harper's Weekly, Vol. 3, No. 124, May 14, 1859, p. 307 "The National Academy Exhibition," New York Semi-Weekly Tribune, May 24, 1859, p. 3. "National Academy Exhibition," Cosmopolitan Art Journal, Vol. 3, No. 3, June 1859, p. 307. "Editor's Easy Chair," Harper's Weekly, Vol. 3, June 1859, p. 126. The Crayon, Vol. VI, June 1859, p. 191. "Fine Arts," Home Journal, June 18, 1859, p. 2. "Fine Arts," Dwight's Journal of Music," September 3, 1859, p. 181. "Domestic Art Gossip," The Crayon, Vol. VII, June 1860, p, 176. "Artists' Reception for the Benefit of the Brooklyn and Long Island Fair," New York Daily Tribune, February 19, 1984, p. 2. Tuckerman, Henry T., Book of the Artists, American Artist Life, Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists: Preceded by an Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of Art in America, New York: P. Putnam & Son, 1867, pp. 466-71. "Fine Arts," New York Times, February 2, 1867, n.p. "American Artists," Harper's Weekly, Vol. 11, May 4, 1867, p. 274. "The Great Show at Paris," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, June/Nov, 1867, pp. 238-53. Catalogue of the Valuable Collection of Oil Paintings Formerly the Private Collection of W.P. Wright, Esq., of New Jersey, Now on View at H.W. Derby's New Art Rooms, 845 Broadway, New York, to be Positively Sold at Public Auction by Henry H. Leeds & Miner, at half past 7 o'clock, on the Evening of Monday, March 18th, 1867, New York: Henry H. Leeds & Miner, 1867, p. 13. "Fine Arts. The Wright-Derby Collection," The Evening Post, January 30, 1867, n.p. Rimmel, Eugene, Recollections of the Paris Exhibition of 18867 by Eugene Rimmel, London: Chapman and Hall, 1868, pp. 265-6. "Paintings at the Centennial Exhibition," The Art Journal, Vol. 2, 1876, pp. 283-5. "A Representative American," The Magazine of Art, Vol. 5, November 1882, p. 487. Walton, William, "Eastman Johnson, Painter," Scribner's Magazine, September 1906, pp. 263-74. Ishamn, Samuel, The History of American Painting, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936, pp. 241-3. "American Art Comes of Age," Life Magazine, Vol. 5, October 31, 1938, pp. 27-38. Baur, John I.H., An American Genre Painter Eastman Johnson 1824-1906, New York: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, 1940, pp. 17-8. Barker, Virgil, American Painting: History and Interpretation, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1950, pp, 609-10. Larkin, Oliver W., Art and Life in America, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960, pp. 221-2. Bauer, John I.H., Ed., The Autobiography of Worthington Whittredge 1820-1910, New York: Arno Press, 1969, pp. 54-5. Ames, Kenneth, "Eastman Johnson: The Failure of a Successful Artist," Art Journal, Vol. 29, No. 2, 1969/1970 Winter, pp. 174-83. Lynes, Russell, The Art-Makers of Nineteenth-Century America, New York: Atheneum, 1970, pp. 259-66. Hills, Patricia, Eastman Johnson, New York: Crown Publishers, 1972, pp. 32-9, 119. Rose, Barbara, "Family Entertainment," New York, Vol. 5, May 8, 1973, pp. 723-4. Parry, Ellwood, The Image of the Indian and the Black Man in American Art 1590-1900, New York: George Braziller, 1974, pp. 101-2. Honor, Hugh, The Image of the Black in Western Art, Vol. IV, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976, pp. 20-1, 187-8, 217-20, 244, 338, 341. Hills, Patricia, The Genre Painting of Eastman Johnson: The Sources and Development of His Style and Themes, New York Garland Publishing, Inc., 1977, pp. 55-60. Fox, James Edwa
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.