Marie Du Bose (Mrs. Samuel Wragg )

Artist Details

Name: Henrietta De Beaulieu Dering Johnston
Birth: ca. 1674 Death: 1729
Nationality: American

Artwork Details

Date of Work: 1708
Subject:
Period:
Type:
Medium: pastel on paper
Dimensions: 11 5/8 x 8 7/8 inches
Credit: Museum Purchase

Henrietta Johnston is known as the first professional female artist in America and the first pastelist. A Huguenot by descent, Johnston and her family fled France for England in the late seventeenth century. She married Robert Dering, a member of the English gentry with appointments and property in Ireland. After his death between 1698 and 1702, she married Gideon Johnston who became the rector of Saint Philip’s Church in Charleston. Upon their arrival in 1707, church politics prevented the new rector from receiving his wages. Gideon Johnston acknowledged his wife’s contributions to their survival when he wrote in a 1709 letter, “Were it not for the assistance my wife gives me by drawing pictures . . . I shou’d not have been able to live.”

While pastels suited Johnston’s artistic sensibilities, allowing her to work on an intimate scale with a delicate touch, little is known about Henrietta Johnston’s artistic training. She practiced her craft on both sides of the Atlantic having executed numerous portraits of Dering family members and friends while in Ireland. Questions remain whether she received her training in France or Ireland before coming to Charleston. Less than forty works are attributed to her today. The Gibbes Museum has the largest public collection of her works.

 

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