Landscape with a Concealed Message

johnston, claypool

David Claypoole Johnston (1799-1865), Landscape with a Concealed Message, 1837. Watercolor. Gift of Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953. Graphic Arts Collection GC023.

David Johnston loved to have fun with art. In the landscape above, the Boston artist embedded a text inside the mountainside and invited his viewers to decode the painting, titling the work “Landscape with a Concealed Message.”

johnston, claypoole2 It might help to remove the bright colors and focus closely on the lining in the rock. [spoiler alert, the answer is at the end of this post].

Best known for his cartoons and caricatures, another of Johnston’s paintings in the Graphic Arts Collection is a satire on the innocence of childhood (seen below), originally shown at the Boston Athenaeum annual in 1829.

When the painting was exhibited at the Princeton University Art Museum in 2002, William Zimmer of the New York Times, wrote, “The show offers only one droll moment in the bunch, and it belongs to David Claypoole Johnston, who is identified as an American born in England [he was actually born in Philadelphia]. ”Precocity” is an undated watercolor in which a gaggle of rowdy children imitate the behavior of rowdy adults, including smoking. The inspiration for the work could be the drawings of Hogarth and others, in which grownups often act childishly.”johnston precocity2

johnston precocity

David Claypoole Johnston (1799-1865), Precocity, no date [1929]. Watercolor. Gift of Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953. Graphic Arts Collection GC023

johnston precocity3

Johnston’s landscape is signed in the rocks: “D. C. Johnston, Teacher of Drawing & Painting.”