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.
The exhibition will present about 90 out of the John G. Johnson Collection’s nearly 1,500 works, including early Italian and Renaissance paintings by such masters as Botticelli, Bosch, and Titian, important seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings including Rembrandt and Jan Steen, and others by the contemporary French masters of Johnson’s day, notably Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and the Impressionists. The exhibition will mark the centenary of Johnson’s gift of his collection to the city of Philadelphia and will offer a close look at some works that curators and conservators have analyzed and cared for over the years, exploring issues of attribution and authenticity, and undertaking other forms of detective work to form a better understanding of Johnson’s collection.
Highlights of the exhibition include Édouard Manet’s The Battle of the U.S.S. “Kearsage” and the C.S.S. “Alabama,” 1864, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks, 1864, as well as major works by Dutch and Netherlandish painters, including Judith Leyster’s The Last Drop, c. 1639, and Rogier van der Weyden’s The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning, c. 1460, and Italian paintings including Titian’s Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto, 1558, and Masolino and Masaccio’s Saints Paul, Peter, John the Evangelist, and Martin of Tours, c. 1427–28.
Since its 1917 gift to Philadelphia, the Johnson Collection has inspired generations of visitors and art historians alike. Far from being a static group of objects, it is subject to constant care, study, and scrutiny by curators, conservators, and scholars from around the world. 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?
In this exhibition, get a behind-the-scenes look at a living, breathing collection and experience first-hand how our understanding and appreciation of these works have evolved over the years.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website