Grace Allison McCurdy (Mrs. Hugh McCurdy) and Her Daughters, Mary Jane and Letitia Grace

Joshua Johnson

(b. probably Baltimore, 1761/63–d. probably Baltimore, after c. 1825)

Title: 

Grace Allison McCurdy (Mrs. Hugh McCurdy) and Her Daughters, Mary Jane and Letitia Grace

Date: 

c. 1806

Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Size: 

43 5/8 x 38 7/8 in. (110.8 x 98.8 cm)

Museum Purchase through the gifts of William Wilson Corcoran, Elizabeth Donner Norment, Francis Biddle, Erich Cohn, Hardinge Scholle, and the William A. Clark Fund

Accession Number: 

1983.87

One of the earliest known African American artists, Johnson, a free black man living and working in Baltimore, painted portraits of many middle- and upper-middle class residents of that city. Grace Allison, who married the successful merchant Hugh McCurdy in 1794, is shown here with her children Mary Jane and Letitia Grace. The self-taught artist’s crisply drawn figures are enhanced by beautifully painted details of still life and costume. His distinctive composition links his sitters through tender gesture, repeated passages of vibrant red, and the gentle curve of the dark settee behind them.