Works of America’s first Black portrait artist showcased in Hagerstown

Maryland

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — The paintings of an artist considered to be the first professional Black portrait artist in America are now on display at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.

Joshua Johnson was a freed slave who achieved success as a portraitist of affluent Baltimoreans. After 18 years of enslavement, he became an apprentice to a white blacksmith. It is believed that while he was painting he worked as an itinerant craftsman to help support himself.

Sarah Hall, director of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, said “before the Revolutionary War we didn’t have very many professional artists at all, comparatively speaking. So to choose to do that as a free Black in Baltimore is pretty extraordinary.”

The exhibit will run until October 24.

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