The art of silhouettes—at first black profile cut-paper or painted images—emerged as a popular form of portraiture in 19th-century America when there were few trained portrait painters. Drawn mostly from New-York Historical’s significant collection, In Profile: A Look at Silhouettes traces the development of this popular art form and explores its contemporary revival. The exhibition showcases works by professional practitioners, like master of the genre Augustin Edouart, Charles Willson Peale, and Moses Williams—a Peale family slave who earned his freedom and worked producing silhouettes at the Peale Museum. Also featured are self-trained artists such as the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen and Martha Anne Honeywell—a woman born without arms and only three toes, who created intricate paper cut-outs, needlework, and penmanship in works that played with contradictions between ability and disability. Contemporary works by Béatrice Coron, James Prosek, Kumi Yamashita, and Kara Walker, who uses silhouettes to investigate the legacy of slavery, reveal the art form’s powerful reemergence. (Curated by Roberta J.M. Olson, curator of drawings)
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.