The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

Related Overviews


More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Art & Architecture


Show Summary Details


David Claypoole Johnston


Quick Reference


Printmaker, draftsman, and painter. The first important satirical draftsman in the United States, he became the nation's earliest commercially successful lithographer. He also produced wood engravings, etchings, and numerous book illustrations. For genre scenes and landscapes, he occasionally painted in oils but generally preferred watercolor. Although he poked fun at many aspects of American life, he is remembered particularly for anti-slavery cartoons. Born in Philadelphia, between 1815 and 1819 he trained there as an engraver in the shop of Francis Kearney (1785–1837), who sometimes published his own drawings and cartoons. Before settling permanently in 1825 in the abolitionist stronghold of Boston, Johnston toured for several years as an actor. His earliest notable prints were portraits of American and British stage celebrities. Informed by an unusually extensive knowledge of art history and literature, including precedents in the work of Englishmen George Cruikshank and Thomas Rowlandson, his satirical works demonstrate lively interest in contemporary political and social issues. Between 1828 and 1849 he issued a series of Scraps, pictorial pamphlets featuring humorous vignettes concerning topics of the day. In 1831 he designed the first pictorial banner for William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator, mouthpiece of the abolitionist movement. Despite unsophisticated technique and farcical humor, Johnston put his vigorous and unacademic style to unparalleled use in reaching a broad audience with comic and egalitarian themes. His five children all had artistic inclinations, and three remained active in the Boston art community, working in the orbit of William Morris Hunt. Thomas Murphy Johnston (1836–69) was known for portrait drawings as well as landscape paintings, while John B. Johnston (1848–86), made a particular specialty of painting animals posed before landscape settings. Sarah J. F. Johnston (1850–1925), among Hunt's most accomplished and admired students, specialized in large-scale charcoal drawings, often depicting children or domestic subjects.

Reference entries