Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Joshua Johnson (United States, 1763-??)

Figure 1.--The Westwood children were painted by Joshua Jonson about 1807. There father was a stagecoach manufactuer in Baltimore. Click on the image for a better view of the collars.


American primitive artist Joshua Johnson was born about 1763. He was also known as Joshua Johnston. He was active as an artist from 1796 through 1824. This means he did not begin to paint portraits until he was over 30. I believe he was a black freeman. One of his best known work showing boys' clothes was of the the Westwood Children which he painted in 1807.

Johnson was one of the first African Americans to become a professional artist in America. Born into slavery around 1763, as the son of a white man and a black woman who was the slave of another man, Johnson was purchased by his father from his mother's owner when he was about a year old. He later apprenticed to a Baltimore blacksmith, and was freed in 1782. Apparently self-taught, Johnson was listed as a portrait painter or limner from 1796 to 1824 in Baltimore city directories. Some 80 portraits are now attributed to him.

The Portrait

The Westwood Children depicts the young sons of John and Margaret Lorman Westwood. A successful stagecoach manufacturer in Baltimore's early Federal society, Westwood was able to commission this portrait from Joshua Johnson, one of the leading painters in town, at the very height of his career.

I do not have details on the boys, but they look to have been about 3 to 7 years of age. All three have similarly cut long hair.

The Fashions

The boys' mother obviously believed in dressing them identically, There is no difference in the clothes or hair style that the three boys or wearing. The mother obvuiously in breaching the boys at a relatively early age.

The boys wear identical green skeleton suits with large, open lace and ruffled collars. Theor suits have matching long pants worn with boots.


I have found no good sources on Johnson yet.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: December 2, 1999
Last updated: December 2, 1999