Exhibition - Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America

PR Vallée - Harriet Mackie (The Dead Bride)

 Charles Willson Peale - Rachel Weeping

Hiram Powers - James Gibson Powers


Artist unknown - Innocence
George Gassner - Arvillaanah Colby


Attributed to Samuel S. Miller - Picking Flowers

William Matthew Prior - Baby in Blue

J.B. Gregory - Theodoric Myers

Joseph Whiting Stock - Mary and Francis Wilcox

William Matthew Prior - Heavenly Children

Michele Felice Cornè - Death of William
 

Ambrose Andrews - The Children of Nathan Starr

Deacon Robert Peckham - The Farwell Children

Artist Unknown - Young Woman with Rose


American Folk Art Museum in New York City has a new exhibition called Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America. It focuses on depictions of the dead in art and postmortem photography:
Securing the Shadow is a contemplation of American self-taught portraiture through the lens of memory and loss. Humanity demands that no life should pass without some recognition, whether it is in the form of a marked grave, a portrait painted after death, or a postmortem photograph. Such tokens were once proof of life—one last opportunity to secure a shadow that would survive beyond the limit of individual memories.
American gravestones offer standing testimony to the changing social structure of dying from the colonial period through the nineteenth century as portraits of the deceased slowly replaced stark memento mori of winged death heads, hourglasses, and the like. In painted portraiture, the transition from frank mortuary depictions to living images coincided with a cultural shift as the individual came to be privileged over the community and a redemptive view of death replaced a more intractable belief in original sin. Posthumous portraits and the postmortem daguerreotypes that ultimately replaced them are memories fixed in colored pigments on canvas and vapors on silver. We cannot help but hear them whisper through the years, “remember me,” because, as photographer Mathew Brady warned in 1856, “you cannot tell how soon it may be too late.”
The exhibition will be on display from October 6, 2016 to February 26, 2017. You can find out more information at the museum's website.

All images via the American Folk Art Museum website and The Guardian.