Old Kentucky Home, African American Life in the South
Old Kentucky Home, African American Life in the South; scene set in a Washington, D.C., backyard with African Americans who enact virtually every phase of family life: courtship and marriage, motherhood, training the young, and listening to the elderly. Focusing on the black community, he marginalizes the white visitor at the right. Johnson seems to have sought a measure of ambiguity in recounting his tale. Such open-ended story lines would characterize many postwar paintings of everyday life. Although the location is urban, he called the painting Negro Life at the South, which invited viewers to see the tenements as outbuildings on a plantation. On the eve of the Civil War, apologists for slavery could read Johnson's narrative for signs of easy living and family solidarity despite forced servitude. Abolitionists could interpret the dilapidated buildings and humbly dressed people as symbols of slavery's oppression of blacks. Jonathan Eastman Johnson (July 29, 1824 – April 5, 1906) was an American painter and co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. He was best known for his genre paintings, paintings of scenes from everyday life, and his portraits both of everyday people and prominent Americans.