These serene portraits strike us immediately for the sitters’ large eyes and direct gazes, as well as for the artist’s precise brushwork, as showcased by Martha Colley’s ruffle-trimmed bonnet. Although not signed, these likenesses bear the hallmarks of itinerant artist John Brewster Jr., who was born deaf in Hampton, Connecticut, and received informal instruction from local portraitist Joseph Steward (Dartmouth Class of 1780). In 1796, Bewster moved to Buxton, Maine, which would became his base for travel throughout New England and eastern New York State in search of portrait commissions. To date, more than one hundred portraits have been ascribed to Brewster, whose ability to support himself through painting is all the more remarkable in light of his deafness. The sharp, penetrating stares of his sitters may reflect the special value Brewster played on eyes in his attempts to understand others, and to be understood himself.
From the 2019 exhibition American Art, Colonial to Modern, curated by Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art
American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Galleries, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 9-December 9, 2007.
American Folk Art at the Hood Museum of Art (a thematic partial permanent gallery installation); Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, July 16, 2015.
By Good Hands: New Hampshire Folk Art, The Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, Neww Hampshire, June 23-September 3, 1989; University Galleries, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, October 23-December 10, 1989; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 10-May 20, 1990.
Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 26, 1991-March 10, 1996.
Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, October 20, 1998-August 27, 2000.
merican Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, November 1, 2019-September 12, 2021.
Robert B. Doty, By Good Hands: New Hampshire Folk Art, Hanover and London: The Currier Gallery of Art and the University Art Galleries, University of New Hampshire, 1989, p. 10, no. 8.
Barbara J. MacAdam, American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Muesum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2007, p. 28, no. 9.
Collection of Paul Lochart Hutchinson (1898-1971), Class of 1920 and Lydia G. Hutchinson (1907-1985), North Palm Beach, Florida; to Lydia G. Hutchinson, 1971; gift of her estate to present collection, 1985.
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