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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Baltimore, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Joshua Johnson

 
 
The Morris A. Mechanic Theatre image. Click for full size.
By Christopher Busta-Peck, July 23, 2008
1. The Morris A. Mechanic Theatre
The marker was probably located somewhere to the right in the picture, close to the probably site of Johnson's studio. The Mechanic Theatre is undergoing a major renovation, and it is possible that the marker is merely obstructed by the construction work.
Inscription. [The majority of the text on the photocopy of the picture of the marker is unreadable. It ends as follows:]

His painting now hang in many museums, including the Metropolitan in New York and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Below are two of Johnson's commissions, both painted between 1805 and 1910. On the right is the James McCormick Family. On the left is an unidentified cleric, one of the few known black subjects attributed to Johnson.
 
Erected 1984 by the Maryland Commission on Afro-American History and the City of Baltimore.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Maryland, Baltimore City historical markers marker series.
 
Location. Marker is missing. It was located near 39° 17.351′ N, 76° 36.983′ W. Marker was in Baltimore, Maryland. Marker could be reached from the intersection of West Baltimore Street and North Hanover Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. The marker was located on the exterior of the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, which is near the location of one of Johnson's studios. It is either missing or obscured as a result of ongoing rehabilitation / renovation work to the theatre. Marker was in this post office area: Baltimore MD 21201, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers.
[Unidentified Gentleman] image. Click for full size.
2. [Unidentified Gentleman]
Baltimore, Maryland, c.1805-1910.
This painting, in the collection of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, was the left image on the marker.
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. Inspired Words (here, next to this marker); Building a City and a Nation: At the Crossroads (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (about 400 feet away); Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr. (about 700 feet away); Charles Center & One Charles Center (about 700 feet away); To Commemorate the Inauguration of a Chemical Industry in America (about 800 feet away); Cecilius Calvert (approx. 0.2 miles away); Mob Scene (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Baltimore.
 
More about this marker. The marker was similar in style to many of the historical markers erected by the city of Baltimore to commemorate historic sites and buildings.

It was originally dedicated on June 8, 1984 at 11:00 a.m. Those present included: Dr. Roland C. McConnell, chairman, Maryland Commission on Afro-American History and Culture; Rev. James J. Fuller, board member, Maryland Commission on Afro-American History and Culture; Carroll Greene, Jr., Director / Curator, Banneker-Douglass Museum of Afro-American Life and History; Dr. Leslie King Hammond, Dean, Graduate Studies, Maryland Institute College of Art; Diana Digges, Coordinator, Baltimore City Historical Markers Program, CHAP; Professor James Lewis, Director, Gallery of Art,
James McCormick Family image. Click for full size.
3. James McCormick Family
Baltimore, Maryland, c. 1805.
This painting, in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society, was on the right on the marker.
Morgan State University; and Pearl D. Brown, Vice President, Banneker-Douglass Museum Foundation, Inc.
 
Regarding Joshua Johnson. Joshua Johnson (circa 1763–1832) was the first African American to make his living making art.

Johnson's worked primarily in Baltimore, Maryland, and may have studies under Charles Wilson Peale. At present, there are more than 80 extant works attributed to Johnson.

The most extensive document of his life and work thus far is the 1987 exhibition catalogue Joshua Johnson: Freeman and Early American Portrait Painter.
 
Additional comments.
1. Josshua Johnson
Portrait Artist and "Self-Taught Genius"

“Joshua Johnson, the earliest known free-black portrait painter in America, remained unknown until 1939. His unique story has evolved slowly as scholars have pieced together works attributed to him as well as documents related to his personal history. Chattel records affirm that Johnson was a "light mullatto,"~ born to an enslaved woman owned by William Wheeler, Sr. of Baltimore, and a white man, George Johnson (Johnston). On October 6, 1764 Wheeler sold Johnson to his father for $25 and arranged for his son to apprentice as a blacksmith. In 1796, the Baltimore city directory lists Johnson as a portrait
Elisha Stansbury image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 5, 2015
4. Elisha Stansbury
This c. 1815 portrait of Elijah Stansbury by Joshua Johnson hangs in the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
painter living between Hanover and Howard Street. On Decemher 19, 1798 Johnson placed his first advertisement in the Baltimore Advertiser, describing himself as a "self-taught genius." In the early nineteenth-century, portraits were expensive luxury items. While the wealthy of the city patronized Rembrandt Peale and Thomas Sully, Johnson offered more affordable paintings to the rising middle-class residents in his neighborhood.” — Maryland Historical Society Museum Label.
    — Submitted December 18, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.

 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, Music
 
Charles Burnett image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 28, 2016
5. Charles Burnett
This c. 1812 portrait of Charles Burnett by Joshua Johnson hangs in the Maryland Historical Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
Mary Anne Jewins Burnett image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 28, 2016
6. Mary Anne Jewins Burnett
This c. 1812 portrait of Mary Anne Jewins Burnett by Joshua Johnson hangs in the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 19, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 23, 2008, by Christopher Busta-Peck of Shaker Heights, Ohio. This page has been viewed 3,810 times since then and 75 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 29, 2008, by Christopher Busta-Peck of Shaker Heights, Ohio.   2, 3. submitted on July 23, 2008, by Christopher Busta-Peck of Shaker Heights, Ohio.   4, 5, 6. submitted on December 18, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.
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