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Cornelius Johnson (Paperback)

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Art > Art History

Imprint: Paul Holberton Publishing
Pages: 72
Illustrations: 25 colour
ISBN: 9781907372827
Published: 15th April 2015


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Prolific and successful in his own lifetime, and ""Picture drawer"" to Charles I, Cornelius Johnson (1593–1661) is now the forgotten man of seventeenth-century British art. This is the first book ever to address his life and work.


Johnson's surviving works, all portraits, are found in most public collections in Britain and in many private collections seen on the walls of British country houses, in the possession of descendants of the original sitters. Working on every scale from the miniature to the full-length and big group portrait, Johnson faithfully rendered the rich textiles and intricate lace collars worn by his sitters. While always recognisably by him, his works reveal his exceptional flexibility and underline his response to successive influences. When four of Johnson's portraits in the Tate’s collection were recently conserved, the author Karen Hearn commissioned investigations into his working methods and techniques. This previously unpublished material will make a significant contribution to the literature on this little-known artist as well as to the technical literature on 17th-century painting.


Johnson's career coincided with one of the most dramatic periods in 17th-century history, and he painted many of the leading figures of the era. In 1632 he was appointed Charles I’s Picture drawer and, as well as portraying the king, he produced exquisite small images of the royal children. In 1643, following the outbreak of Civil War, Johnson emigrated to the northern Netherlands. There he continued to work successfully, in Middelburg, Amsterdam, The Hague and, finally, in Utrecht, where he died a prosperous man.


Johnson's portraits are not elaborate Baroque construts on the contrary, they have a delicacy, a dignity and a humanity that speak directly to present-day viewers. Their quality and diversity will be a revelation.

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