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History, American, Military, Civil War, Wounded Drummer Boy, Eastman Johnson, Albumen Photograph, American, 1873

Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) (after)
The Wounded Drummer Boy, an incident of the late war
American: 1873
Photograph of painting in original mat
Signed on original mat lower left
17 x 14 inches photograph
18.75 x 15 inches, sight size, including original mat
26.25 x 23 inches, framed, with additional matting
Price on request

A rare photographic print hand-signed by the renowned American artist Eastman Johnson of his important and famous painting The Wounded Drummer Boy, an incident of late war. The original painting, now in a private New York collection, depicts the iconic and heroic image of a Union soldier carrying a wounded drummer boy in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Antietam (1862). This enables the boy to continue to inspire the exhausted and wounded troops with his drumbeat. The painting was rendered in 1871 and was extremely popular when exhibited at the National Academy of Design Forty-seventh Annual Exhibition in 1872. It is to this day viewed as one of the more important works of Eastman, who produced some of the most enduring and well-known American genre paintings of the 19th century. Indeed, this work is a leading example of an Eastman historical work incorporating elements of the genre style in showing regular people in a rural setting — in this case enlisted soldiers on the battlefield. Nonetheless, the Eastman Catalogue Raisonné — further described below — has no other Civil War battle paintings of this type other than preparatory works for the final version.

Product description continues below.


This offered photograph print is copyrighted by Johnson in 1873 as indicated in a legend in the lower right and signed in the lower left in the matrix E. Johnson. The offered example — the only extant print of this kind we have located to date — is also signed in script pen “Eastman Johnson” on the original cream-colored gold beveled mat in its lower left corner. It appears to be an albumen photographic print of the original 1871 painting, rather than a photo process print. It may be presumed the print was made to satisfy demand for the image at the time due to the immediate popularity of the work at the aforementioned exhibit in 1872. Whether Eastman signed multiple copies of the photograph is unknown, since we only know of the one we offer here. It is also plausible that the signature indicates it was a personal presentation by him.

Of interest is that there are some minor differences at minimum in the foreground between the 1873 photograph and the 1871 painting as now observed. It might be that these changes were touched up in the negative in 1873 before making the photograph print. Nonetheless, a closer comparison of the extant painting and the offered photograph conceivably could reveal aspects of the original painting as now observed that instead were later changed on the original, perhaps by restoration, over time to present; thus, further research is merited. This also makes this photograph print a more important document of the painting, particularly if no other examples of it are located.

The National Academy of Design website, includes the Catalogue Raisonné entry for the original painting by Eastman Johnson in 1871 under the direction of  Patricia Hills, PhD, the founder and director of this project. Hills gives the title as The Wounded Drummer Boy, an incident of the late war, but also indicates alternate titles along the same lines. She states that the painting was in the collection of the Union League Club of New York from 1872 to at least 1972 and has been in a private collection since 2021. Hills describes the painting in the Catalogue Raisonné — apparently excerpted from her 1972 book Eastman Johnson Retrospective Exhibition:

In the finished work, exhibited in the National Academy of Design Annual Exhibition of 1872, Johnson reverted to the Civil War, choosing from many stories made popular by history and literature of young drummer boys whose brave valor had inspired courage in their old comrades. Here the child, wounded but valiant and held aloft by a foot soldier, drums to raise the morale of the troops. The charming pathos of the subject disarms any genuine concerns for the hardships of war or the pitiful condition of this child-warrior.

The Catalogue Raisonné also contains this description from the National Academy of Design exhibition catalogue, 1872:

In one of the battles of the battles of the late war a drummer boy was disabled by a shot in the leg. As he lay upon the field he called to his comrades, ‘Carry me and I’ll drum her through.’ They tied up his wound, a big solder took him upon his shoulders, and he drummed through the fight.

The Brooklyn Museum eloquently describes a preparatory painting for the final version:

The emblematic image of a heroic youth literally rising above the chaos of the battlefield resonated deeply with Northern audiences both during and after the war. Johnson’s initial drawing of the subject was exhibited in 1864 to foster support for the army, and the finished painting of 1871—for which this work is a preparatory study—helped to commemorate the hope and sacrifice of the Union effort. In this study, the loose brushwork, bright highlights, and lack of detail powerfully evoke the experience of battle—the steady drumbeat, the smoke-filled air, and the drama of life and death.

Johnson employed skills and techniques that he learned studying painting in Europe and adapted them in developing the oeuvre of American genre painting. In his early years as a painter, while apprenticing for Emanuel Leutze, he collaborated on the famous revolutionary war painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. He also did paintings of historical interest of slaves and is well known for his Civil War painting The Wounded Drummer Boy. Over his career he executed a large number of genre paintings showing everyday Americans, often engaged in activities of rural life. A favorite subject was children, The Barefoot Boy being a particularly well-known painting subsequently adapted in a popular print by Prang & Company, Boston. In his later years Johnson turned largely to painting portraits.

Hills succinctly summarizes Johnson’s works:

Johnson’s subjects, aside from portraits, include early representations of the Ojibwe Nation in Minnesota territory; the visual culture of the Civil War; images of Black and white people which avoided stereotypes of the time; mid-century artisans; the celebration of farmers and the agrarian communal ideal; images of the interiority of women; summertime living at the seashore; and the shift in style and content from an earlier moralizing genre painting to subject pictures with an emphasis on the spontaneous brushstroke. His portraits document networks of politicians, businessmen, and patrons, and their families in ways in which they wanted to be represented.

Copyright legend on photograph: Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1873 by E. Johnson in the office of the Librarian at Washington.

Condition: Generally very good, the photograph image still strong, in its original mat retaining bold clear signature lower left, now set in a high quality frame with a modern mat still showing the original within it. Not examined out of the frame.


Hills, Patricia, and Abigael MacGibeny. “The Wounded Drummer Boy, an incident of the late war, 1871 (Hills no. 10.0.21).” Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné. 20 April 2022. (30 April 2024).

“Study for ‘The Wounded Drummer Boy.’” Brooklyn Museum. 2004-2019. (30 April 2024).

Additional information


20th Century