Eastman Johnson's sugaring-off paintings, ranging in size, finish, and composition, provide an important glimpse into the artist's process as a painter, since Johnson invested more time and work in the sketching phase of this project than any other in his career. As he experimented, Johnson changed compositions, sometimes dramatically, and refined details in individual figures or group relationships. In particular, Johnson seemed to experiment with different ways of juxtaposing the figure of work--the kettle tender--against figures of leisure, such as the men dancing or flirting with women. Despite his significant attention to the project, however, Johnson never finished a final studio oil, and all of these sketches remained in his studio until his death.


Sugaring Off
c. 1865
(Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Museum Works of Art Fund. Photograph by Erik Gould)

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