Milwaukee Event Calendar
MAM Exhibit Eastman Johnson in Focus
Feb. 11, 2017 - May 21, 2017
When it debuted at New York’s National Academy of Design in 1859, critics hailed Eastman Johnson’s Negro Life at the South as a masterpiece; it quickly became a touchstone for both abolitionists and proponents of slavery alike for its indictment of urban poverty and its effects on African Americans lives on the one hand, and the seemingly idyllic view of southern culture on the other. After a fallow period, Johnson returned with a vengeance in 1871 with The Old Stagecoach, a painting that critics hailed as the painter’s “latest and greatest,” and that attracted “crowds of devotees” at the National Academy that same year. As opposed to Negro Life at the South, The Old Stage Coach garnered unanimous praise for its nostalgic look at the country’s national childhood. At the same time, the mixed race girl yoked to the coach had obvious allusions to slavery and post-Civil War lynching, while the triumphant white boy atop the decrepit coach named Mayflower held obvious metaphors about America’s past and future.
This exhibition unites in conversation Johnson’s two masterpieces: his major ante-bellum painting, Negro Life at the South from the New-York Historical Society and his post-Civil War masterwork, The Old Stage Coach from Milwaukee’s Layton Art Collection. It celebrates the Layton Art Collection’s Old Stage Coach and explores in brief the artist’s career and critical reception, as well as each painting’s historical context.
Milwaukee, WI 53202