Artist Spotlight: Joshua Johnson

Happy February! Here at Fine Art Miracles we are taking this month to celebrate and highlight black artists in honor of Black History Month. For the rest of the month we will be showcasing black artists, their stories, and their works and to start off this month we are highlighting artist Joshua Johnson.

Joshua Johnson was born in 1763 in the Baltimore, Maryland area. Very little was known about his life and upbringing up until the mid-1900’s when art historians began to piece together his story. It was found that Johnson’s father was a white man and his mother was a black slave. His father purchased him from the slave owner when Johnson was 19 years old. In 1796, Johnson began identifying himself as a portrait painter and moving frequently, often residing with other artists. It is not known if he had any formal training or education in the arts. Johnson’s works are referred to as naïve paintings because of this lack of education and training. Joshua was known for portrait paintings of very prominent white families, and it wasn’t until 1939 that he was identified as the painter of thirteen portraits. 

Because of the time that Johnson was born in we don’t have as much information about his life and works as we should. He was an extremely talented and gifted artist who made his own way in life by producing these portraits. He is regarding as the first African-American artist to work professionally and therefore one of the most important Black history artists.

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