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Still Life

John Johnston, American, 1752–1818
Oil on panel
Made in
Boston, Massachusetts, United States, North and Central America
Current Location
On View, Gallery 329
14 7/8 x 18 1/4 in. (37.8 x 46.4 cm)
framed: 22 11/16 x 25 5/8 x 2 5/8 in. (57.6 x 65.1 x 6.7 cm)
Credit Line
Funds given anonymously
Public Domain
Object Number
“Still Life” revels in the textures of translucent grapes and fuzz of peach skin. The unadorned background emphasizes the delicate silhouette of grape leaves and tendrils. The bee and caterpillar add a sense of the momentary to an otherwise seemingly timeless theme. These details draw us closer to the image, increasing our sense of intimacy with it by inviting careful observation. This work is one of the earliest still-life paintings made in the United States. The artist, John Johnston, worked in his father's engraving and decorative painting business. He served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and was injured and imprisoned by the British for over a year before returning to Boston to open his own studio.
L.P.L.C. Lapp [1]

- still in 1918
Sohier Collection, Cohasset, MA, USA, acquired from L.P.L.C. Lapp; Emily Sohier and Mary Sohier, by inheritance; Bertha Sohier, Concord, MA, by inheritance [2]

- 1966
Roland B. Hammond, North Andover, MA, acquired from Bertha Sohier

1966 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Roland B. Hammond [3]

[1] A letter dated February 1918 that was once affixed to the back of the painting reads: "This picture belonged to L.P.L.C. Lapp. It is now owned by Emily & Mary Sohier. This picture was painted by Major John Johnston after the Revolution. It is the first picture of 'Still Life' painted by him in America. Grand Father Sohier bought it... always hung in the Cohasset house" [letter, SLAM document files]. The painting was therefore in the Sohier family in Cohasset for two generations before Emily and Mary Sohier had possession of it in 1918. It then continued to descend in the Sohier family until it was acquired by Mrs. Bertha Sohier, from whom Roland B. Hammond acquired the painting [letter from Hammond dated November 14, 1966, SLAM document files].

[2] See note [1].

[3] Per bill of sale from Roland B. Hammond dated July 18, 1967 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control and Associate Members of the Board of Control of the City Art Museum, November 10, 1966.
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