Back from the Orchard

Eastman Johnson, American, 1824 - 1906



Oil on board

Overall: 19 7/8 × 11 7/8 in. (50.5 × 30.2 cm)

Frame: 10 1/16 × 6 7/8 in. (25.5 × 17.5 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Katharine T. and Merrill G. Beede 1929 Fund; the Mrs. Harvey P. Hood W'18 Fund; a gift from the Estate of Russell Cowles, Class of 1909; and a gift from Jose Guerrero, by exchange



Place Made: United States, North America


19th century

Object Name


Research Area


On view


Signed and dated, lower right: E. Johnson 1876; inscribed, on reverse: Painted by / Eastman Johnson / New York; inscribed, on reverse: C [?] Lebi / 230 Wash [?] / Cherry [?] Beach; inscribed, on reverse: 60444 Eastman Jo


Dating from 1876, our centennial year, this painting is rich in national associations. The abundance of contemporary paintings of children, especially mischievous boys, suggests a national identification not only with the innocence of childhood, but with the youthful opportunism and daring of orchard robbers, street urchins, and errant schoolboys. Furthermore, the apple, a ubiquitous American crop, is also emblematic of our national identity, as reflected in the popular expression “as American as apple pie.” In this work, these gigantic, perfectly round fruits spill out of the boy’s pockets, suggesting the bounty of the American land and its long-held identification as the new Eden.

From the 2019 exhibition American Art, Colonial to Modern, curated by Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art


Painted during the US Centennial in 1876, this boy’s youthful demeanor and bulging pockets suggest uneven bounty after the US Civil War. It is unclear how he obtained the apples. Were they charity? Is he a farm laborer supporting his family instead of going to school? Did he steal them? The context is ambiguous, but the boy’s vigorous chomp suggests his defiant ownership of the fruit. If he stole them, he won’t be punished.  


Johnson did not paint a portrait of an actual boy but used him as a symbol for the nation’s imagined future. As the country looked back during the Centennial, Johnson contributed to a broader national discourse that elevated opportunities for white men while creating nostalgia for boyhoods lost during the Civil War. Johnson’s use of symbolism drew upon his earlier education as Leutze’s student in Düsseldorf, where he had also modeled for Washington Crossing the Delaware.

From the 2022 exhibition Historical Imaginary, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

Course History

HIST 27, WGST 23, Gender and Power in American History from the Colonial Period to the Civil War, Leslie Butler, Spring 2012

Exhibition History

America: The New World in 19th Century Painting, Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria, March 17-June 20, 1999.

American ABC: Childhood in 19th-Century America, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford, California, February 1-May 7, 2006; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C., July 4-September 17, 2006; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine, November 1, 2006-January 7, 2007.

American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Galleries, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 9-December 9, 2007.

American Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-September 12, 2021.

Historical Imaginary, Luise and Morton Kaish Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, December 17, 2022-November 12, 2023.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 2, 2009-present.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, November 16, 1993-June 22, 1997.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 16, 1997-February 14, 1999.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 16, 1999-November 13, 2005.

The Apple of America, The Apple in 19th Century American Art, Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, May 6-June 26, 1993, no. 20.

Publication History

Stephan Koja, ed., America: The New World in 19th-Century Painting, Munich, London, New York: Prestel Verlag, 1999, p. 119, ill. pl. 72.

Upper Valley Magazine Preview of the Arts, West Lebanon,N.H.": Van Etten, Inc., September/October 1994, ill. p. 57

Important 19th and 20th Century American Paintings and Bronzes, From the Collection of the Late Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., Sale Number 3802, Lot 43, October 31, 1975.

Bruce Weber, The Apple of America: The Apple in 19th Century American Art, New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., p. 28, no. 20, color illus., 1993.

Barbara J. MacAdam, American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Muesum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2007, p. 59, no. 38.

Barbara J. MacAdam, Building on Dartmouth's Historic American Collections: Hood Museum of Art Acquisitions since 1985, The Magazine Antiques, November 2007, New York: Brant Publications, color ill. p. 143.

John R. Stomberg, The Hood Now: Art and Inquiry at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2019, p. 62, ill. fig. 9.4.


Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge; Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, October 31, 1975, no. 43; sold to Mrs. and Mrs. George Arden, 1975-1988; Jordan-Volpe Gallery, Inc.; sold to present collection, 1993.

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