A VIEW OF SAVONA
Titled and dated l.r. 25th September 1851, inscribed verso
Watercolour over pencil, heightened with gouache
28cm x 49 cm
The present work dates from a trip to Italy undertaken by Johnson in 1851: two watercolours from earlier that month, of Ventimiglia and Isola San Giulio respectively, are in the British Museum (1885,1010.7 & 1894,0516.13).
Harry Johnson was born in Birmingham, where he studied under Samuel Restell Lines. He was later a pupil of William Muller's in London, whom he accompanied as a student on Sir Charles Fellowes' expedition to Lycia (modern-day Turkey) in 1843, and whose watercolour views of Anatolia from that trip were a formative influence on his style.
Johnson returned to London, where he was to become a founder of the Clipstone Street Academy, which numbered William Etty, John Lucas, W.E. Dighton and Daniel Teniel among its students and earned an outstanding reputation as an art school. "In emulation of Dutch seventeenth-century artists, one of the principal activities of this group was to bring low-life types from the streets into its improvised studio as models for sketching exercises" wrote A.E. Miller in a catalogue entry for a work by Frederick Goodall now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1).
Johnson befriended David Cox Sr., another fellow Birmingham artist, and joined him on his first trip to Bettws-y-Coed in Wales in 1844, accompanying the great landscapist on further trips to North Wales afterwards. Cox's works were also to have an influence on Johnson; however theirs was more a friendship than a pedagogical relationship. Johnson was elected an associate member of the R.I. in 1868 by a unanimous vote and a full member two years later. His works can be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum.
(1) Asher Ethan Miller, catalogue note for Frederick Goodall's Portrait of William Edward Dighton:
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/655744 [Last Accessed 19.11.2020]