Portrait of a Gentleman – Daniel Coker?
Joshua Johnson is considered to be the first significant African-American artist.Full description »
Joshua Johnson is considered to be the first significant African-American artist. He worked in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1796 to 1824. It is not known whether he received formal training as an artist, but we do know that he apprenticed as a blacksmith in 1764, gaining his freedom eighteen years later. Johnson was constantly threatened with being captured as a fugitive slave and sold at auction and, therefore, stayed close to Baltimore. Most of his sitters were white abolitionists. Of the 80 paintings attributed to Johnson, only two feature African-American sitters: oval framed portraits of gentlemen dressed in black, with starched white neck cloths (possibly clerical stocks). No information appears on the reverse of either canvas, but similarities with another likeness suggest that the identity of the figure illustrated here could well be Daniel Coker (an ordained minister in Baltimore who helped found the African Methodist Episcopal Church).
'Johnson is an art historical mystery. His story, researched over the past 60 years, is one of conflicting evidence, stylistic puzzles, and continuing speculations surrounding his identify and race.' Jane Rose, Tour Guide, AMIB
From 1805 (circa) to 1815 (circa)