Art/ Collection/ Art Object

John Taylor Johnston (1820–1893)

Léon Bonnat (French, Bayonne 1833–1922 Monchy-Saint-Eloi)
Oil on canvas
52 1/2 x 44 in. (133.4 x 111.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of the Trustees, 1880
Accession Number:
Not on view
Inscription: Signed and dated (upper left): Ln. Bonnat- / 1880.
The Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (commissioned from the artist in 1880)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Taste of the Seventies," April 2–September 10, 1946, no. 66.

Museum of the City of New York. "200th Anniversary of the Saint Andrew's Society," February 20–March 25, 1956, no catalogue.

"Bonnat's Johnston." Art Interchange 5 (September 29, 1880), pp. 1, 61–62, ill., notes that this portrait has just been completed in Paris.

Samuel P. Avery. Journal entries. May–July 1880 [published in Madeleine Fidell Beaufort et al., eds., "The Diaries, 1871–1882, of Samuel P. Avery, Art Dealer," New York, 1979, pp. 562, 570, 573, 576, 578, 591], notes that he discussed this portrait with Bonnat on May 22, accompanied Johnston to the first sittings at Bonnat's studio on June 8 and 9, and saw the portrait on June 15; on June 18, records that Johnston was to pay [Fr] 12,000 for it, the same amount which Avery paid Bonnat on July 20.

George A. Lucas. Journal entries. June 4, 8, and 29, 1880 [published in Ref. Randall 1979, vol. 2, pp. 498, 500], notes that he accompanied Johnston and Avery to see Bonnat on June 4, 1880 in order to arrange the sittings for this portrait; records the first sitting taking place on June 8 and the last on June 29.

"Meissonier and Bonnat. Portraits of Mr. William H. Vanderbilt and John Taylor Johnston." New York Times (September 1, 1880), p. 5, notes that this portrait was on view in Paris "at the art rooms of Mr. Pettis [sic]" in August; states that Bonnat originally turned down the commission, but reconsidered when he learned the portrait was intended for the MMA collection.

Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Note Book." Art Amateur 3 (August 1880), p. 47, reports that Johnston is "sitting to Bonnat for his portrait".

Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Note Book." Art Amateur 3 (September 1880), p. 69, notes that this portrait is on view at Petit's gallery in Paris before being shipped to New York.

"Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Second Loan Exhibition—Grés de Flandres—The Gifford Collection." New York Times (October 22, 1880), p. 10.

"The Metropolitan Museum of Art." New York Times (November 1880), p. 112, comments that "most people will regret that the commission was not intrusted [sic] to one of our own portrait painters".

"An Extraordinary Picture Collection." Art Amateur 5 (July 1881), p. 24, calls it "the worst Bonnat we have ever seen".

"Fine Arts. The Vanderbilt Art Reception." Independent 35 (December 27, 1883), p. 7.

Clarence Cook. Art and Artists of Our Time. New York, 1888, vol. 1, pp. 172–73, criticizes this portrait, remarking that "French artists never do an American sitter justice".

William A. Coffin. "Souvenirs of a Veteran Collector." Century Illustrated Magazine 53 (December 1896), p. 242.

Arthur Hoeber. The Treasures of The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. New York, 1899, p. 82.

D[aniel]. Cady Eaton. A Handbook of Modern French Painting. New York, 1909, p. 271.

Harry B. Wehle. "Seventy-Five Years Ago." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (April 1946), p. 202, ill. p. 208.

Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, p. 189, ill., note that a replica of this picture belongs to descendants of Johnston.

Gerald M. Ackerman. "Thomas Eakins and His Parisian Masters Gérôme and Bonnat." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 73 (April 1969), pp. 247, 256 n. 46, fig. 16, cites this picture as an example of Bonnat's influence on Eakins' portrait style.

Wendell D. Garrett. "The First Score for American Paintings and Sculpture, 1870–1890." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), p. 310, fig. 2.

Frederick Baekeland. "Collectors of American Painting, 1813 to 1913." American Art Review 3 (November–December 1976), p. 138, ill. p. 120 (detail) and fig. 22.

Richard Thomson. Toulouse-Lautrec. London, 1977, p. 7, fig. 2 (detail), notes that portraits such as this one established Bonnat's reputation.

Lilian M. C. Randall, ed. The Diary of George A. Lucas: An American Art Agent in Paris, 1857–1909. Princeton, 1979, vol. 1, p. 36, fig. 24; vol. 2, pp. 498, 500.

Katharine Baetjer. "Extracts from the Paris Journal of John Taylor Johnston, First President of The Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 114 (December 1981), p. 410, fig. 1.

Katharine Baetjer. "Buying Pictures for New York: The Founding Purchase of 1871." Metropolitan Museum Journal 39 (2004), p. 161, fig. 1.

John Taylor Johnston (1820–1893) was a founding trustee (1870–93) and first president (1870–89) of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This portrait was commissioned by the Trustees for presentation to the Museum on the tenth anniversary of his election.

A replica by Bonnat is in the collection of Johnston's descendants. A copy of the portrait by Horace Bradley is owned by the Atlanta History Center.
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