Negro Life at the South

Is owned by NYHS: 
Yes
Negro Life at the South
Negro Life at the South
Title
Negro Life at the South
Date 
1859
Medium 
Oil on linen
Dimensions 
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 )
Description 
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.
Credit Line 
The Robert L. Stuart Collection, on permanent loan from the New York Public Library
Object Number 
S-225
Gallery Label 
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.
Bibliography 
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"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. 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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 Edward, Iconography of the Black in American Art (1710-1900), A Dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Art History, 1979, pp. 198-207, 214-5. Cary, John H, Weinberg, Julius, Eds., The Social Fabric: American Life from 1607 to the Civil War, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1981, Cover. Koke, Richard J., American Landscape and Genre Paintings in the New York Historical Society, Vol. II, New York: The New-York Historical Society, 1982, pp. 232-4. Troyen, Carol, Innocents Abroad: American Painters at the 1867 Exposition Universelle, Paris, American Art Journal, Vol. 16, No. 4, Autumn 1984, pp. 3-29. Beckham, Sue Bridwell, "By 'N By Hard Times. . . 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Walker, Kara, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2007, n.p. Fine American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture: Thursday 25 September 2008, New York, NY: Christies, 2008, p. 7. McInnis, Maurie D., "The Most Famous Plantation of All: The Politics of Painting Mount Vernon," Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art, Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina Press, 2008, pp. 105-9, 113-4. Miller, Angela L, Berlo, Janet C., Wolf, Bryan J., Roberts, Jennifer L., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008, pp. 267-8. Bjelajac, David, American Art: A cultural History, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008, pp. 219-20. Weinberg, H. Barbara, and Barratt, Carrie Rebora, Eds., American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life 1765-1915, New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009, pp. 70-3, 77, 109. 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Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group