Women's History :: Henrietta Johnston

Henriette Charlotte Chastaigner by Henrietta Johnston
1711, pastels, Gibbs Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina
Henrietta Johnston was the first known professional female artist in America. Henrietta was a pastelist portrait artist who began working in Charles Town (now Charleston), South Carolina in 1707.

Reverend Gideon Johnston, Henrietta's second husband, wrote in a letter, "were it not for the assistance my wife gives by drawing of pictures…I should not be able to live."

Most of her portraits were of French Huguenots (the Prioleaus, Bacots, duBoses), and members of her husband's congregation. Her pastels were imported from Europe, as they were not being manufactured in America at that time.

About forty of Henrietta's portraits are known to exist today, some of which are found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.