Tuesday, July 7, 2015

WORK OF THE WEEK: "Captain Manter" by Eastman Johnson

Eastman Johnson
Captain Manter, 1873
oil on panel
13 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
Nathan H. Manter (1819-1897) was the beloved captain of the Nantucket steamboat Island Home from 1860 to 1891. Manter was one of the retired mariners whom Eastman Johnson befriended and painted repeatedly in his Nantucket scenes. Born on Nantucket, he went to sea at the age of seventeen on the Nantucket whaleship Congress (1835-1838), and later commanded the Nantucket whaling schooner William P. Dolliver (1854). During his service as mate of the 1848-1852 cruise of the New Bedford ship Java, he was mistakenly reported as killed by a whale. He retired from whaling and joined the Nantucket Steamboat Company as first officer of the steamer Massachusetts and subsequently as captain of the Telegraph during the laying of cable from Cape Cod to Nantucket on April 19, 1856. He soon took command of the steamship Island Home, aboard which he would serve for the remainder of his career, with a remarkable record of safety, retiring in 1891. Captain Manter's funeral service was held at his home on Federal Street. Many businesses and stores were closed, flags throughout town were flown at half-mast, and the steamer Island Home's bell tolled as a token of respect for her departed captain of thirty-one years. His photographic portrait circa October 1883 may be viewed in the Nantucket Historical Association's collection.

Eastman Johnson was best known for his genre paintings and his portraits both of everyday people and prominent Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His later works often show the influence of the 17th-century Dutch masters, whom he studied in The Hague in the 1850s. Johnson was known as "The American Rembrandt" in his day. He first visited Nantucket in 1869, and soon took up seasonal residence on the island, purchasing a home and artists studio on North Street (now Cliff Road). The artist's island sojourns would inspire some of his most enduring works. Following the completion of his masterpiece Nantucket landscape The Cranberry Harvest, Johnson turned his attention to portraiture, taking advantage of the community of grizzled veterans of the sea who haunted Nantucket in the twilight of the nineteenth century, as well as his new neighbors who included retired mariners, civic officials, and practicing artists.

Johnson was one of the original founders of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's earliest roots date back to 1866 in Paris, France, when a group of Americans agreed to create a "national institution and gallery of art" to bring art and art education to the American people. The lawyer John Jay, who proposed the idea, swiftly moved forward with the project upon his return to the United States from France. Under Jay's presidency, the Union League Club in New York rallied civic leaders, businessmen, artists, art collectors, and philanthropists to the cause. On April 13, 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art was incorporated, opening to the public in the Dodworth Building at 681 Fifth Avenue.

Contact us for pricing and inquiries about this work: 203.869.3664 or art@cavaliergalleries.com.