Joseph Dwight Strong
Joseph Dwight Strong was born September 15, 1853 in Connecticut. The son of a minister, his childhood was spent in Honolulu with his family for a few years before moving to Oakland, California in 1859. He later enrolled at the California School of Design. Residents of Oakland, California raised funds to send Strong to Munich for four years of further study under Carl von Piloty and Alexander Wagner. He was also an early photographer. There are photos of Berkeley attributed to Strong.
After his return in 1877, Strong briefly shared a house in Monterey, California with his sister Elizabeth, but was soon back in the San Francisco area where he was much sought after as a portraitist. In 1879 he married Isobel Osbourne, the daughter of Fanny Vandegrift and step daughter of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson described Joseph in The Silverado Squatters as a great omelet maker.
The couple traveled to the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1882, where they lived for several years. In 1886, King David Kalākaua appointed Strong governmental artist on the expedition to Samoa headed by John Edward Bush aboard the Kaimiloa. His child, Austin Strong (who became a playwright) was born in San Francisco prior to relocation in Hawaii. A second son was born to the Strongs, but he died before his first birthday.
When Stevenson, his wife, Fanny (Strong's mother-in-law), and Isobel's brother, Lloyd Osbourne, came to visit in Hawaii, Strong was invited to go island hopping in the South Pacific. His wife and young son were sent to Australia while he travelled with Stevenson. Once the Stevensons were settled in Vailima, Samoa, Strong and his wife joined them there in 1891.
Strong had an affair with a Samoan girl, which resulted in his divorce from Isobel and his rejection by Stevenson. His son Austin was legally adopted by Stevenson. Many of the diaries and letters which Stevenson and his family published after the divorce were edited to remove all reference to Joseph Strong, and several photographs were destroyed or altered. In 1895, Strong returned to San Francisco. He died on April 5, 1899.
The Honolulu Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts) are among the public collections holding work by Joseph Dwight Strong. In 2018, the Johann Jacobs Museum in Zurich, in cooperation with Prof. Martin Dusinberre, dedicated a whole exhibition to the painting "Japanese Laborers on Spreckelsville Plantation".
- Forbes, David W., Encounters with Paradise: Views of Hawaii and its People, 1778-1941, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1992, 174-212.
- Moors, H.J., With Stevenson In Samoa, Small, Maynard & Company, 1910.
- Stevenson, Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson, Our Samoan Adventure, Harper & Brothers, 1955
- Field, Isobel, This LIfe I've Loved, Longmans, Green And Co, 1937
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