19th Century Vernacular Portraits

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Fruitlands holds one of the largest collections of vernacular portraits in the country. During the nineteenth century, New Englanders became increasingly interested in the concept of self representation through art.

In Boston, parlor walls on Beacon Hill were adorned with the personal portraits of wealthy Bostonians, painted by renowned portrait artist John Singleton Copley. Hoping to capitalize on this interest, New England soon saw a rise in itinerant painters with no formal artistic training who traveled from town to town painting affordable likenesses of rural New Englanders. These primitive, or vernacular, portraits often contain symbolic clues and insights into the daily lives, values, and customs of rural New Englanders of the nineteenth century.

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