In 1917 John G. Johnson, the most famous lawyer of his day, left his astonishing trove of European art to the city of Philadelphia. One hundred years later, we’re taking a new look at one of this country’s most remarkable collections. Encounter treasures by the likes of Botticelli, Bosch, Titian, Rembrandt, and Monet—and see how we keep making new discoveries about the collection.
Far from being a static group of objects, the Johnson Collection is subject to constant care, study, and scrutiny. What does it mean to tend to and learn from an art collection of this magnitude and significance? What discoveries and challenges do we encounter day in, day out?
The Dutch Golden Age
Johnson’s collection of Dutch paintings is among the largest in the world and is especially rich in works by artists like Jan Steen and Jacob van Ruisdael. Research on the art of this period often seeks to determine meaning. We find ourselves asking questions like: Is this painting a depiction of everyday life or a fabricated scene? Is this still life a careful selection of objects loaded with symbolism or a beautiful crafted composition meant to please the eye?
Also see Connoisseurship and the John G. Johnson Collection in Philadelphia in the CODART eZine of 2015 (winter) for detailed information about Johnson Collection.
Also see the article Old Masters, new tricks: conservators unearth century-old collection’s secrets in November’s Art Newspaper (also available online).