Nantucket Historical Association acquires significant Eastman Johnson painting

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Nantucket Historical Association acquires significant Eastman Johnson painting
Cranberry Pickers, Eastman Johnson, 20" x 30". Oil on cradled panel. Photo courtesy of Nantucket Historical Association.

NANTUCKET, MASS.- The Nantucket Historical Association announced the acquisition of the painting Cranberry Pickers by Eastman Johnson, thanks to an outpouring of generous support from numerous private donors, NHA board members, and the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association. Cranberry Pickers depicts a woman and man harvesting cranberries on Nantucket’s north shore. Painted around 1877, it is one of approximately twenty works Johnson created in preparation for his masterpiece Cranberry Harvest, Island of Nantucket (1880), which is now in the collection of the Timken Museum in San Diego.

“The NHA is thrilled to add this important painting to our permanent collection. Eastman Johnson is one of the most significant nineteenth-century American painters, and Cranberry Harvest is his most iconic work. This major acquisition allows us to better preserve Johnson’s Nantucket oeuvre and celebrate this era of the island’s history. We are grateful to our donors and the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association for their generous support,” says Niles Parker, Gosnell Executive Director.

Eastman Johnson (1824–1906) is the primary artist of national importance associated with Nantucket in the late nineteenth century. He and his wife began summering on the island in 1870 and returned annually through 1890, residing from 1871 onward at a property he purchased on what is now Cliff Road. The artist’s island sojourns inspired some of his most enduring works as a major genre painter, portraitist, and chronicler of American life.

This painting of cranberry pickers is extremely unusual because it is both a study and a stand-alone work that, in its specificity and beauty, surpasses all the other images Johnson produced related to his final Cranberry Harvest painting. Last exhibited publicly over thirty years ago, the painting was feared lost until recently. With most of Johnson’s best works already in museum collections, this rediscovered painting presented a rare chance for the NHA to secure one of Johnson’s finest depictions of Nantucket for the people of Nantucket.

The painting will go on view this summer at the Whaling Museum and will be featured in an exhibition of Eastman Johnson and Winslow Homer paintings of women coming to the NHA in 2025.

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