As did many other New York City residents, David Johnson spent summers at Lake George, just south of the Adirondack Mountains. Lake George became a tourist destination when steamboats arrived in 1817; after 1826 when James Fenimore Cooper set his book The Last of the Mohicans there, its popularity continued to grow. As advances in transportation made the trip more convenient, the lake became very busy with visitors by mid-century. Johnson painted views of Lake George for the many visitors as they bought these landscapes to remind them of their vacation. It was important to Johnson to accurately portray these scenes and the present work, A View on Lake George (Paradise Bay) of 1876, is one of the finest examples of his assiduously detailed compositions of Lake George.
A View on Lake George (Paradise Bay) depicts three boating parties leisurely making their way on the lake. Johnson has carefully painted the trees and shoreline with great precision and with lush summer colors. In order to achieve detailed compositions as this one, Johnson typically executed many preliminary drawings before finishing the work. Superb handling, richness of color and realistic effect characterize these works as a wonderful example of Luminism as the light reflects off the water and highlights the rocks and trees along the shore.
The scene Johnson has painted is very serene and inviting. "Johnson's tranquil meditations always study and celebrate the aesthetic harmonies in patterns of color, shape, and texture which link the diverse elements of the landscape, the ecological relations which make each natural element a part of an intricate whole and also the close interdependence between the natural system and the people who come to it for their livelihood, their recreation, and their spiritual renewal. Emphasizing these harmonies, Johnson's paintings seem intended to serve as the bridge between human viewers and the world." (G. Owens, Nature Transcribed: The Landscapes and Still Lifes of David Johnson, Ithaca, New York, 1988, p. 13)
DeWitt Clinton, the Governor of the State of New York in 1816 said, "Can there be a country in the world better calculated than ours to exalt the imagination-to call into activity the creative powers of the mind, and to afford just views of the beautiful, the wonderful and the sublime." (as quoted in American Sublime: Landscape painting in the United States 1820-1880, London, 2002, p. 39) Johnson's carefully detailed representation with his use of light and color is superbly executed in A View on Lake George (Paradise Bay) captures a crystalline, summer day with visitors leisurely traveling through a beautiful American landscape.