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The John G. Johnson Collection: A History and Selected Works

The John G. Johnson Collection: A History and Selected Works

Available February 1, 2018

This online scholarly publication examines one of the finest collections of European art ever to have been formed in the United States by a private collector. It is published on the centenary of the remarkable bequest of John G. Johnson (1841–1917)—a distinguished corporate lawyer and adventurous art collector—to the City of Philadelphia. At the time of his death, Johnson had acquired nearly 1,300 paintings, primarily from the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries; more than 150 sculptures, textiles, and other objects; and an art library of approximately 2,500 books, journals, and auction catalogues. The collection, which has been entrusted to the Philadelphia Museum of Art since the 1930s, includes masterpieces by key figures of the Renaissance such as Bosch, Botticelli, and Titian; important seventeenth-century Dutch paintings by Rembrandt, Jan Steen, and others; and works by American and French masters of Johnson’s own time, notably John Singer Sargent, Édouard Manet, and Claude Monet.

Through interpretive essays and in-depth examinations of 70 individual artworks, the publication illustrates some of the fascinating breakthroughs in understanding that have emerged from curators’ and conservators’ work researching and caring for the collection over time. Most significantly, the integration of digitized archival materials throughout the publication represents the first time the Museum has made large bodies of primary source material available online, offering researchers new ways to explore the histories of the artworks. The over four thousand digitized John G. Johnson archival records consist of correspondence, photographs, invoices, and legal documents that illuminate the process of building the collection.

The free digital publication will be available to read online or for download as a PDF. It represents several firsts for the Museum. The complete archives of the Johnson Collection will be available online and searchable independently and together with publication object information. The archival catalogue uses linked data modeling that extends the Museum’s ability to integrate it deeply with collection scholarship and other holdings. The project also includes implementation of IIIF (the International Image Interoperability Framework), an emerging display technology that makes it possible to present high-resolution digital images with deep zoom and could potentially offer the ability for other institutions and users to share images and integrate them into other projects.

About the Authors
Christopher D. M. Atkins is The Agnes and Jack Mulroney Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, and Manager of Curatorial Digital Programs and Initiatives; Carl Brandon Strehlke is Curator Emeritus; Jennifer A. Thompson is The Gloria and Jack Drosdick Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, and Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection; and Mark S. Tucker is The Neubauer Family Director of Conservation, all at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Image: The Last Drop (The Gay Cavalier) (detail), c. 1639, by Judith Leyster (John G. Johnson Collection, 1917, Cat. 440)

Online publication
ISBN 978-0-87633-276-4

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