American history buffs will appreciate the many events this year to celebrate the 200th birthday of Virginia Executive’s Mansion, home of the governor on the State Capitol grounds. Vernon Johnson’s commissioned painting of the Executive Mansion in 1987 enjoys a full-page reproduction in this impressive volume by writer and historian Mary Miley Theobald and with an introduction by novelist David Baldacci. First House: Two Centuries with Virginia’s First Families is a beautiful coffee-table book and well worth a read.
Vernon Johnson’s watercolor of the Virginia governor’s home as it was in the late 1980s was considered to be an exemplary portrait of the mansion. Having retired in Richmond, the artist was well-known for his watercolors of regional landscapes, residences and historic buildings. He was originally asked to paint this portrait of the governor’s home for the C&P Telephone Company’s 1987-1988 Greater Richmond telephone book. The watercolor was later presented to then Gov. and Mrs. Gerald L. Baliles, who were restoring the mansion.
The story of this painting is chronicled in more detail in Chapter 9, the last chapter of “The Artist’s Eye.” Johnson spent about three months studying the mansion in lighting at various times of day. He was commended by Jeannie Baliles for “capturing the elegance and stately beauty of this magnificent house.”
Several large prints of Vernon Johnson’s rendition of the Executive Mansion, signed and suitable for framing, are still available. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.