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Eastman Johnson Letters

An inventory of his letters at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Johnson, Eastman, 1824-1906.
Title: Eastman Johnson Letters
Inclusive Dates: 1861-1896
Quantity: 6 folders (SC)
Abstract: Papers of the American artist, portrait painter. Outgoing correspondence in which Johnson discusses finished portraits (Florence Levy) as well as work in progress (John Elderkin), and a letter to painter Jervis McEntee.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) was an American artist and portrait painter, best known for his paintings of landscapes and scenes from everyday life (particularly Maine) and his portraits of everyday people. He also painted portraits of prominent Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He studied in Holland (and was sometimes known as "the American Rembrandt" for his work's resemblance to that of the 17th century Dutch master), but spent much of his career in Massachusetts, though he also travelled in Italy, Paris, and Germany. He was a member of the Boston Art Club Member, Brooklyn Art Association, National Academy of Design, Society of American Artists, and the Society of Illustrators.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Eastman Johnson Letters consist of outgoing items by the American artist, written between 1861 and 1896, and include a few which are undated. Most of the letters contain discussions of Johnson's finished paintings (Florence N. Levy) or his work in progress (Coyle, John Elderkin). Perhaps the greatest revelation of what is commonly considered to be the "artistic temperament" is best revealed in an undated letter to Elderkin:

I am considerably surprised this morning to receive your note informing me that a date had been fixed for a dinner to me at the Lotos Club. My recollection was that I distinctly objected to anything of the kind. With all thanks in the world, and with every appreciation of the compliment proposed I should be very glad if the matter would go no further - I have been for some time past in a state of such lassitude that I do nothing whatever that I am not obliged to, and avoid every physical and especially mental effort that is possible...

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Arrangement of the Collection

The letters are arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Elderkin, John, 1841-1926.
Johnson, Eastman, 1824-1906.
Levy, Florence N. (Florence Nightingale), 1870-1947.
McEntee, Jervis, 1829-1891.


Painters -- United States.
Painting, Modern -- 19th century -- United States.
Portrait painters -- United States.
Portrait painting -- 19th century.

Genres and Forms

Letters (correspondence)



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Eastman Johnson Letters,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, various.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: KM
Date: Mar 1989
Revision history: 17 Apr 2008 - converted to EAD (AMCon); 9 Aug 2013 - added letter, P-13-105 (MRC)

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Correspondence (outgoing)
SC 85 Coyle 1861 (2 letters)
SC 85 Elderkin, John 1896, undated (3 letters)
SC 85 Levy, Florence Nightingale undated (1 letter)
SC 85 McEntee, Jervis 1881 (1 letter)
Purchased, 2013.
SC 85 Thompson undated (1 letter)
SC 85 Wilson 1892 (1 letter)

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