Horace Chauncey Johnson
1820 - 1886
Waterbury, Connecticut

Horace Chauncey Johnson was born in Oxford, Connecticut in 1820.

Johnson studied art in Hartford with Alexander Hamilton Emmons; in New York City with Samuel F. B. Morse and at the National Academy of Design, of which he was a member; and before World War I in Rome, Italy from 1856 to 1858 with William Page.   Upon his return from Italy he opened a studio in downtown Waterbury in 1860 where he was active as late as 1886.1

He belonged to a social circle connected to the affluent members of the greater Hartford area. He is believed to have been a friend of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Horace was the preeminent Waterbury portrait painter of his day and stood at the center of the Connecticut art world.  He was known for his works in peasant genre, Indian/Native American, portrait and figure.

It is noted that in the early 19th century, before the Civil War, Johnson maintained a figure specialty, changing to a genre specialty after the Civil War.

Groce & Wallace, "The New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America"

19th C. oil on canvas, unsigned, attributed to Horace Chauncey Johnson (American 1820-1886), full length portrait of two young ladies, period gilt frame, inscribed verso in yellow paint "H. Johnson/portrait Miss Carrie Johnson and Frances Anderson/ Mrs. E.J. Gillete/Gift of Dr. Edwin J. Gillete"

ss: 54 3/4" h. x 36 1/2" w.

Provenance: gifted to a New England Museum in the 1940's from a direct descendent of the artist, kept in the museum collection until present deaccessioning.


See letter below written to the mother of the child in this painting.

TITLE:  [Stephen Salisbury, seated in chair, three-quarter-length portrait]
  LC-D416-81 (b&w glass neg.)
  1 negative : glass ; 8 x 10 in.
  c[between 1900 and 1912]
Johnson, Horace Chauncey, 1820-1890, artist.

Detroit Publishing Co., copyright claimant, publisher.

Title devised by cataloger; Caption on negative: Portrait of Stephen Salisbury.
Date based on Detroit, Thistle Publications (1912).
Photograph of a painting.
Detroit Publishing Co. no. M 81.
Gift; State Historical Society of Colorado; 1949.


19th C. oil on canvas, attributed to Horace Chauncey Johnson (American 1820-1886), European genre scene of a woman wearing a green skirt with a small infant in a wicker cradle at her feet, most likely executed during or after Horace Chauncey Johnson stay in Italy from 1856-1858.
Period gilt frame with stylized floral designs, some loss, inscription verso in yellow paint, "The Johnson estate/H. Johnson painted in Rome"

ss: 39 1/2" h. x 29" w.

Provenance: gifted to a New England Museum in the 1940's from a direct descendent of the artist, kept in the museum collection until present deaccessioning.




Letter from Horace Chauncey Johnson
to Mary Anderson, 1866.


He writes from Waterbury, Connecticut, Buck's Hill. 1866 to "Mary."
[Mary Anderson was mother to Frances Anderson Gillette the child in the portrait at left.]

Johnson writes as beautiful as he paints.
This letter is just a work of art.
You are with him as he pens from his old chair.


"Bucks Hill, 1866

Dear Mary,

In writing letters to interest our we must confine ourselves to little home matters to things that surround us, so that they can see us in the imagination as they in reality would see us if present.
If we write from Bucks Hill, and if ourselves and Bucks Hill have a place and real interest in your heart then it is here you would like to come in though and have a chit chat in the Old familiar way.
Now then dear Molly behold me as the evening shades are drawn around us, seated in the bosom of my family a bright and shining light dispensing warmth by stuffing wood into the stove and sunshine by screwing up the kerosene lamp.
Mrs. Johnson - my wife - (next in importance to me in the household) is also writing to you while Polly is stirring up pancakes for the morning and my daughter Caroline is Whittling.
The old cat lies quisled up in a chair dreaming of vast barns and unthrashed grain ad mice.
Now consider yourself here and seated by my side, let us talk.
How is old Curly?  Does he still console himself with the belief that there is no hell? no stripes when this life is ended for all his shortcoming in the flesh?
But that other old fellow whom God has blessed as he did Jacob of Old with vast flocks of wondrous Kine (I mean that little heifer we of in the paper)
He is the chap.
He has got the ding in him and stamped with the genuine stamp of earthiness.
We must look to such things here below for bread and butter.  The body will put in its chains for attention which cannot be neglected.
I have soared upon the wings of imagination and feasted on subliminal things but I find the stomach craves corn beef and potatoes once a day and I sleep a little better tucked up nicely with Mrs. Johnson than among the stars these cold nights.
Alas Polly has retired, and her vast cares and responsibilities are lost in the sleep of the body and Mrs. Johnson and I are alone. I look at her amiable face and the feelings of old days and first love comes back and warms my heart and quickens the pulse and oozes out through the pores of the skin and stands glad on my face as unctuous as goose-ile
You know how Old Bassett used to look!
We hear of you often through your mother but your words sometimes mystifies the old lady but young girls are mysterious they always puzzle me.
But write some open your heart confession is a relief and their is nothing in the world like sympathy and I a wondrous source of consolation to Mrs. Johnson in that regard she could not spare me.

Your loving and sympathizing friend,

H.C. Johnson."