The Cranberry Harvest, Island of Nantucket
The Cranberry Harvest, Island of Nantucket, 1880
Oil on canvas
27 3/8 x 54 1/2 in.
In 1870, after searching for aspects of American rural life to use as subjects for ambitious paintings, Johnson began to draw inspiration from Nantucket Island, in Massachusetts. With this view of a cranberry harvest, he successfully realized his efforts to paint a celebration of New England outdoor life.
The work also marks a significant achievement in the history of American art. Using an evocative, rather than descriptive, technique, Johnson lavishes attention on the landscape, from the dry grasses of the cranberry bog to the distant and accurate view of Nantucket's spires and lighthouse. The principle focus of this scene washed by late-afternoon light is the configuration of pickers, and their poses and gestures. The standing woman in the center who looks at a boy carrying an infant to her creates a narrative suggesting that the artist recorded the scene as he witnessed it.