Wednesday, February 07, 2007
A travelling exhibit- now showing in Portland Maine. January 25, 2007 - March 25, 2007
A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.
The first comprehensive exhibition on the important American painter John Brewster, Jr. (1766-1854), this show features 50 outstanding paintings illustrating the full range of Brewster’s long and successful career. Brewster was not an artist who incidentally was Deaf but rather a Deaf artist, one in a long tradition that owes many of its features and achievements to the fact that Deaf people are, as scholars have noted, visual people. The exhibition and companion book provide a major assessment of Brewster’s life and art within his four worlds: his artistic influences, his distinctive painting style and techniques, his elite clientele, and the world of the Deaf in early America. He is particularly noted for his portraits of children, who are depicted with an angelic innocence rarely achieved in portrait painting.
John Brewster Jr. (1766-1854), born a deaf-mute in rural Connecticut, was an itinerant portrait artist who created images of American life during the formative period of the nation, images of haunting beauty. He was a key formulator of a style of American folk portraiture that came to dominate rural New England, a striking adaptation of the English Grand Manner filtered through the works of Connecticut portraitist Ralph Earl. The Grand Manner style entailed a romanticized view of the sitter, with rich colors and an exploration of detail in the sitter’s features, costume and setting. Working in a folk art style that emphasized simpler settings, broad, flat areas of color, and soft, expressive facial features, Brewster achieved a directness and intensity of vision rarely equaled.
The exhibition was organized by the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, and is funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the American Folk Art Society, Robert and Katharine Booth, and Jon and Rebecca Zoler. This exhibition has been made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the American Masterpieces program.