G.F. Waldo Johnson

Artists who created the catalogues

Add_9455vol4_p1493 _1

George Frederick Waldo Johnson first drawing of a catalogue illustration is dated May 1895, taking over the final part of Volume 3 from Alexander Peacock. He also produced the illustrations for volumes 4, 5 and 6 and parts of 7 [from page 2068 to 2120] and 8. Pitt-Rivers seems to have started recruiting him in May 1895 see the letter L1269 in Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum:

7 Kempsford Gardens | Earls Court | SW | 7th May 1895

Yours of the 4th duly received & in reply wish to say that I will make a drawing in the museum of some archaeological specimens or you being an archaeologist will know of some particular specimen which you like I will do so well, so that you will then have a proof of my ability in that line of work.
I dont think I told you that I am a qualified art master I have got my certificate from the Department of Science & Art which is a guarentee that I have had a proficient scientific training as well as artistic
I need hardly say that I will do my utmost to give you full satisfaction if you should employ me in your archaeological work.
I remain yours faithfully
G.F.W. Johnson

To | General Pitt Rivers, F.R.S. | Rushmore | Salisbury

Presumably his test drawing (now lost) was acceptable and Johnson was employed soon after.

A portrait of him is shown on page 105 of Bowden's biography of Pitt-Rivers. Johnson replaced Herbert Toms as one of Pitt-Rivers' assistants in 1895, he remained in his employ until 1900. In September 1895 he contributed an oil colour portrait of 'R. Davidge, Caretaker, Larmer. By Mr. G.F.W. Johnson' to an exhibition Pitt-Rivers organized at the Larmer Grounds. See here for more information. He stayed working in Farnham Museum after the death of Pitt-Rivers where he was called 'secretary' in 1901. According to Thompson, Waldo Johnson was paid £72 per annum by Pitt-Rivers, though later he remarks 'those who already had some experience or qualification like ... Johnson were paid as much as 30s. or £2 a week'. [Thompson, 1977: 94] He is said to have initiated the elaborate frontispieces for the volumes. [1999: 388] Johnson seems to have taken some time to settle into the task of illustrating the objects, trying out different techniques (over-painting photographs) and also using different styles.  Some of his illustrations are breath-taking, see for example volume 6 page 1989.

He seems to have wished to move employment. On 8 February 1898 he wrote to Pitt-Rivers, from the Museum at Farnham, seeking a reference for another job:

I am a candidate for the mastership of the Canterbury School of Art which is worth £250.

I have been five years at the Royal College of Art & have the certificates which qualify me for the Position I wish to obtain.

I have been nearly three years at Rushmore & have had a very training in the work carried on here.
I would be glad if you would kindly give me a testimonial. [L2044 S&SWM PR papers]

He presumably did not get the job.

He is listed in the Register of Marriages for the parish of Iwerne Courtney (Shroton) as being married in 1900:

'1900 May 23 George Frederick Waldo Johnson, Draughtsman, [aged] 38, Father William dec'd [deceased] Gentleman and Elizabeth Mary Rabbets, 21, father Joseph dec'd Coal Merchant

So he married very shortly after Pitt-Rivers' death. It is to be hoped that the two events were not linked. It is clear that he saw his task primarily as a draughtsman. Iwerne Courtney is quite close to the Pitt-Rivers estate, north of Blandford Forum.

Oil painting by Waldo Johnson, 1893 taken from http://www.artnet.com/artist/424113554/gf-waldo-johns

Interestingly an oil painting by him was sold at Christie's at South Kensington, London on 18 November 2004 (lot 300). It was painted in 1893 (that is, before he started work for Pitt-Rivers) and was titled 'A whippet in a landscape'. Another painting with a similar theme (this time greyhound in a landscape) was sold by Bonhams & Butterfields on 25 January 2005, Lot 44. Findartinfo.com lists 5 oil paintings by him, all on the theme of dogs in landscape, 'Study of a greyhound in an extensive landscape','Greyhound before a landscape', 'A greyhound in a landscape', 'A whippet in a landscape' and 'Portrait of a greyhound in a field'. These titles are likely to have been provided by the auction house and therefore some of these paintings may actually be the same (four of the five have identical measurements 20 x 26 inches).

Bibliography for this article

Bowden, Mark. 1991. Pitt Rivers: The Life and Archaeological Work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, Michael and Colin Renfrew. 1999.‘The catalogues of the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Farnham, Dorset’ Antiquity vol. 73 (no. 280) pp. 377-392

Thompson, M.W. 1977 General Pitt-Rivers... Moonraker Press

AP, 2010.

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