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 David Claypool Johnston  (1799 - 1865)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Massachusetts      Known for: satirical cartoons, graphic arts, painting, acting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
David Claypoole Johnston was the first American satirical artist of note and became known as a cartoonist, printmaker, painter and actor. Of him it is written that "he was the first natively trained American to master all of the various graphic arts processes of lithography, etching, metal plate engraving and wood engraving. (wikipiedia) As an engraver of caricatures, he learned that his were too controversial to publish.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1798 and was apprenticed to Francis Kearney, a local engraver, from 1815 to 1819. Johnston may have lived in London from 1822 to 1824.

Although his first caricatures date from about 1819, his career may be said to have begun when he settled in Boston, Massachusetts in 1825. He made the first commercially successful American lithographs, beginning with an illustration for the Boston Monthly Magazine in December, 1835 (Bass Otis is thought to have created the first American lithograph in 1819 in Philadelphia).

Between 1828 and 1849, Johnston published nine volumes of "Scraps," based on the journal Scraps and Sketches, first published by the British caricaturist George Cruikshank in 1827. Johnston included between nine and twelve vignettes in his volumes, each satirizing different aspects of American life.

Altogether, he illustrated more than forty books, and made more than one-hundred paintings, mostly watercolors, many of which are in the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. About 250 of his drawings are in the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Johnston's subject matter was often drawn from the theater, with which he was familiar both as an observer and performer. His style was that of an illustrator clean and easy to read. His caricatures exaggerated the foibles of his subjects rather than their physical characteristics or oddities of personality, indicating that he was more interested in humor than in harming or hurting people.

David Johnston died in 1865.

Sources:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Artists
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Wikipedia: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Claypoole_Johnston


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