A sweet scene: a young child, bundled against winter's chill, prepares to pounce on a sled and rocket down an icy New England slope. Such sentimentality appealed to the American art market in the latter half of the 1800s, and nobody painted to this audience better than (Jonathan) Eastman Johnson (1824-1906). Recovery from the Civil War proved difficult for survivors on both sides of the conflict; emotional wounds and deep economic devastation competed for the attention of war-weary citizens. Impressionism and other European creative movements had not yet filtered into the mainstream of the American art world, and wealthy buyers still preferred wholesome—although sometimes unrealistic and fanciful—images. Johnson, best known as a genre painter, portrayed wives and widows (JAMA cover, March 6, 2002), soldiers and freed slaves, elderly persons and children, all placed in a variety of rural venues and wartime scenes: simple snippets of everyday life.
Torpy JM. Portrait of a Child (Winter). JAMA. 2009;302(23):2517. doi:10.1001/jama.302.23.jcs90030