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"Shepherd's Field Near Jerusalem"

"Shepherd's Field Near Jerusalem"

Pen and Ink, 20136

John Douglas Woodward (1846-1924)

A prolific landscape painter in the decades following the Civil War, John Woodward did hundreds of scenes of Europe, the Holy Land, and the United States. Many of them were reproduced in popular magazines and were well received because they answered people's curiosity about the expanding world.


His career reached its peak at a time when realistic depictions of nature were thought to reveal the Creator's beneficence and power, and in the early part of his career, he was committed to conveying this message. However, as tastes changed to modernist, more abstract art in the 20th century, his work was largely forgotten until the late 20th century when new appreciation was shown for his wide-ranging talents.


Woodward was born in Virginia and spent his childhood in Covington, Kentucky, where his father had a hardware business. He absorbed art in museums in Cincinnati, just across the river from his home, and took lessons there from the German painter, Feodor Charles Welsch.


During the Civil War, his family fled to Canada, and shortly after, he made his way to New York City where he took classes in 1863-64 at the National Academy of Design and Cooper Union.


After the War, his family settled in Richmond, Virginia, and he divided his time between there and New York. Committed to fine art, he did not make enough money to support himself, so he turned to illustration, and his first major assignment was a sketching tour of the South. His second assignment was doing on-site drawings for "Picturesque America," and his success with this project aligned him with some of the nation's most prestigious landscape illustrators including the project's main artist, Harry Fenn.


In 1874, he was chosen to create for "Art Journal" a series on the Hudson River, and in 1875, he was sent West for the same magazine on the newly completed transcontinental railroad to paint western scenic wonders including Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon. On this trip, he began experimenting with watercolor, which was becoming increasingly popular. His paintings reinforced the idea that travelling the railroad one could see all types of scenery that were relatively inaccessible by foot.


In 1876, the Appleton publishing company that owned "Art Journal" sent him to England to gather material for "Picturesque Europe," edited by American poet Bayard Taylor. Unfortunately his drawings from that period have been lost, but his resulting paintings from the mid-1876 to 1879 are well documented. Following this project, he traveled for "Picturesque Palestine, Sinai, and Egypt," which required two years of research and travel with Harry Fenn. He reportedly did not enjoy the trip very much and was not impressed with the towns and cities he saw. Despite that, royalties from this project amounted to almost $10,000 a year for each of the artists. 


In 1879, he returned to New York and continued to do book and magazine illustrations throughout the next two decades, and he also devoted himself much more to oil landscape painting. From 1882, he provided illustration for The Century Magazine and several books of poetry and, financially secure, was now able to devote more time to painting landscapes in oils and watercolors. He moved to Paris and Pont-Aven in France with his wife for most of 1883. They returned to New York in 1884, and Woodward continued over the coming years to paint pictures and provide illustrations for books (including Kingsley's "Song of the River" in 1887 and Tennyson's Bugle Song in 1888) and for journals such as The Century Magazine, Scribner's, and Harper's. He focused wholly on painting after the 1895 death of his father left him with a large inheritance.


He traveled widely again in Europe, especially in Italy where he painted in Venice and Capri. In 1905, he and his wife settled in New Rochelle, New York- which was an art hub at the time- and he lived there until his death in 1924.


Biography adapted from multiple sources.



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