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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Dwight Primiano.

At the Camp—Spinning Yarns and Whittling

Artist: Eastman Johnson (1824 - 1906)
Date: ca. 1864-1866
19 x 23 in. (48.3 x 58.4 cm)
Framed: 29 x 33 x 4 in. (73.7 x 83.8 x 10.2 cm)
Medium: Oil on board
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2010.86
Signed: l.l.: E.J.
On View
Accession Number: 2010.86
ProvenanceElizabeth Buckley Johnson (Artist's wife); to (American Galleries), February 27, 1907, lot 108; William B. Cogswell [1834-1921] (husband of Artist's cousin, Mary Johnson Cogswell); by bequest to Cora Browning Cogswell [1864-1936] (his second wife), 1921; by bequest to Florence Pearl [d. 1961] and Elizabeth C. Browning (her sisters), Syracuse, NY, 1936; (Douthitt Galleries, New York, NY); (John Levy Galleries, New York, NY); J. William Middendorf II [b. 1924], Greenwich, CT; (Kennedy Galleries, New York, NY), by 2004; Private Collection, Philadelphia, PA; (Sotheby's, New York, NY), December 1, 2004, lot 99; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2004
Label TextThough this painting looks like an everyday scene, Eastman Johnson embedded within it an abolitionist message. Two men of different generations bide their time at a camp for processing maple sugar, an old fashioned process by this time. Importantly, maple sugar was a sweetener that, unlike cane sugar, did not rely on slave labor. Abolitionists urged consumers to boycott Southern goods such as cane sugar, empowering people to not only vote with their conscience, but with their wallets.