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From Slave to “Self-Taught Genius”: Joshua Johnson the Fells Point Portraitist

October 14, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Joshua Johnson Portrait Painting Advertisement, Baltimore Intelligencer, 1798. Maryland Center for History and Culture, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Ephemera Collection, 3057

Joshua Johnson is recognized as one of the first professional African American portraitists in the United States. An interesting aspect of his work in the early Republic was the patronage he received from the newly emerging merchant class in Baltimore during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

In this behind-the-scenes conversation with Mark Letzer, MCHC President & CEO, learn more about the people Johnson painted in his Fells Point community, and explore the nationally significant collection of Joshua Johnson portraits at MCHC. Joining Mark will be guests David Taft Terry, PhD, Associate Professor of History at Morgan State University, and Daniel Fulco, PhD, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Curator.

This is an FSK from Home event—the virtual offering of our traditional Francis Scott Key Lecture Series.

We are very excited to partner with the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown for a new exhibition, Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore, open now through January 23, 2022.

The exhibition brings together the work of Joshua Johnson (ca. 1763-1824) for the first time since 1988, including Johnson portraits from the Maryland Center for History and Culture’s collection.

Often considered the first professional African American artist, Johnson was a freed slave who achieved a remarkable degree of success as a portraitist in his lifetime by painting affluent patrons in his native Baltimore.

Click here to register!


Maryland Center for History and Culture