Eastman Johnson (1824–1906)

Fiddling His Way, c. 1866

Oil on artist's board, 20 7/8 x 24 7/8 in. (53 x 63.2 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 1999.8

Eastman Johnson’s genre subjects range from scenes of genteel leisure in the comfortable homes of bourgeois city dwellers to traditional rural pursuits such as communal harvests and husking bees. Fiddling His Way depicts an itinerant musician entertaining a family in a dim rustic interior. Johnson drew on firsthand studies of Dutch seventeenth-century masters and his training under the French painter Thomas Couture (1815–1879) to render objects and figures emerging with indefinite contours from shadowy, confined spaces. One of two works with this title painted in the same year, Fiddling His Way differs from the larger version, in the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, in several respects; most notably, the figure of the fiddler in the latter iteration is an African American. Scholars have suggested that the Terra Foundation’s work might have been the study for the Chrysler Museum’s painting.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.