Eastman Johnson (1824-1906)
“The Lord is My Shepherd” (1863)
Oil on wood
Located in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, United States
The title of the painting comes from Psalm 23, which begins with the line: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Johnson painted it just after the Emancipation Proclamation was announced in 1863. Its imagery includes an African-American man reading the first part of a Bible, possibly the Book of Exodus. He is sitting against a blue jacket, which may indicate service in the Union army. President Abraham Lincoln had recently authorized organization of the United States Colored Troops.
There isn’t a single person or landscape or subject which doesn’t possess some interest, although it may not be immediately apparent. When a painter discovers this hidden treasure, other people are immediately struck by its beauty.
When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives your own naïve impression of the scene before you.