A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr

Front Cover
Beacon Press, 2004 - Art - 190 pages
John Brewster Jr. (1766-1854) was one of the most prominent early American portrait painters. His hauntingly beautiful portraits have a directness and intensity of vision that were rarely equaled, as the images in this book attest.

Brewster's portraits have sold astonishingly well at auction, and his work is featured in the collections of prestigious museums, yet curiously little has been written about the life of this deaf artist. Traveling the New England coast to paint the portraits of the merchant class that arose after the Revolution, he lived precisely when a Deaf-World-with its own language, social institutions, and culture-was forming. Harlan Lane, award-winning historian of the Deaf, argues that deaf people are often visually gifted, and that Brewster, as a deaf artist, is part of a long and continuing distinguished tradition.

Lane's unprecedented biography both vividly and comprehensively explores Brewster's worlds- he was a seventh-generation descendant of William Brewster, who led the Pilgrims on the Mayflower voyage; he was a member of the Federalist elite; a Deaf man; and, finally, an artist.

In 1817, at the age of fifty-one, Brewster attended the first school for the Deaf in America, the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf & Dumb Persons. It's extraordinary to imagine that this was the first time he experienced fluent conversation and real social and intellectual exchange. Yet, as Lane notes, Brewster's ambivalence about this minority reflects the difficult choices confronting many Deaf people, then and now.

Including little-known information on the French roots of the American Deaf-World; the Deaf communities of Martha's Vineyard, Maine, and New Hampshire in the nineteenth century; and on contemporary Deaf art, A Deaf Artist in Early Americaprovides a multifaceted glimpse of Brewster, New England history, and the distinctive culture, language, and social institutions of the Deaf in America.
 

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Contents

Illustrations
ix
The Puritan World
6
The World of the Federalist Elite
22
The DeafWorld
45
The Art World
91
The DeafWorld and Deaf Art Today
111
The Uses of Ethnic Consciousness
126
Copyright

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Page 178 - A Report of the Proceedings at the Celebration of the First Centennial Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town of Buxton.

About the author (2004)

Harlan Lane is University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Northeastern University and has received the International Social Merit Award of the World Federation of the Deaf, among numerous other honors. An internationally recognized advocate for the Deaf, the author or editor of nine books on Deaf history, language, and culture, Lane lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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