The Funding Bill

Eastman Johnson American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774

In 1881, bankers and businessmen were profoundly alarmed by a bill in Congress about the refunding of the national debt. The man at the left on the sofa is Robert W. Rutherford, a relative by marriage of the painter, and the attentive listener beside him is the artist, Samuel W. Rowse. When these responsible citizens were discussing the bill in Johnson's own parlor, he saw in their appearance and attitudes the subject for a picture and made a study before doing this large, finished work. Portraiture is combined with genre, because both men are unposed and their intellectual exchange is really the theme of the work. Eastman Johnson consistently chose truly native American subjects, and his portraits reveal personality with unusual forthrightness and absence of drama.

The Funding Bill, Eastman Johnson (American, Lovell, Maine 1824–1906 New York), Oil on canvas, American

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