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Chapter 16 - Representing Johnson in Life and After

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2022

Greg Clingham
Affiliation:
Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
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Summary

Representing Samuel Johnson, whose towering intellect and larger than life persona dominated his era, posed a challenge for portrait painters and caricaturists alike. His public image, which coalesced over several decades, has continued to mutate and proliferate long after his death. Expanding the idea of serial portraiture, this chapter examines pairs or clusters of related images across various artists and media, focusing on the formative function of Johnson’s portraits in and after life and their central role in mythologizing him as a literary colossus. This chapter is particularly interested in tracing how visual representations of Johnson morphed over time, were appropriated and reproduced, and interacted dialogically, creating a kaleidoscopic, multifaceted, complex portrait of Johnson. As his close ties with artists, his support of artistic institutions, his print collection, and his collaboration in the creation of numerous portraits amply demonstrate, Johnson was not the ignorant philistine disinterested in his image that he at times

professed to be.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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