The American Folk Art Museum Continues its 60th Anniversary Gifts of Art Campaign with the Promised Gift of a Pair of Portraits by John Brewster, Jr.

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • April 19, 2021

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(New York, New York) – The American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) announced today the promised gift of a pair of portraits by John Brewster, Jr. The portraits have been given by Trustee Karin Barter Fielding and her husband, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, in honor of AFAM’s 60th anniversary. These works are the first by the artist to enter the Museum’s collection and are notable as representations of an iconic early folk artist.

Brewster is well known as a prolific itinerant portraitist who worked throughout New England in the late eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth century, residing in Connecticut and later in Maine. His biography offers a rare window into the experience of a Deaf person in the first decades of the United States. Research on the artist confirms that he communicated by gesture and in writing. In 1817, when Brewster was in his 50s, he returned to Connecticut in order to attend the newly opened American School for the Deaf. He later went back to Maine, where he would continue painting until the end of his life in 1854.

The portraits given to the Museum depict Benjamin and Anne Pearson Titcomb, residents of Portland, Maine. Depicting the Titcombs in their later years, the works demonstrate Brewster’s ability to capture his sitters’ individual character and stage of life with dignity and humanity. In contrast to some of Brewster’s more fanciful depictions of children, the couple’s conservative dress and upright bearing emphasize their status as distinguished members of the community. The pictures’ precision and the sitters’ expressive authenticity make them very fine representations of the artist’s early work.

Brewster’s work was the subject of the Museum’s 2006 exhibition, A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster Jr. 

About the Museum’s Gifts of Art Campaign

During its anniversary, the Museum will add works to its collection as it seeks to present an inclusive, nuanced, and meaningful story of folk and self-taught art across time and place. Ranging from notable individual objects to extensive collections, these contributions, bequests, and promised gifts will be displayed in upcoming exhibitions or will be available online.

About the American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum engages people of all backgrounds through its collections, exhibitions, publications, and programs as the leading forum shaping the understanding and appreciation of folk and self-taught art across time and place. The Museum is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2021.

Chris Gorman
American Folk Art Museum

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