In this essay for CUNY’s New Labor Forum, Professor Adom Getachew reviews “The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers,” an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery at The Smithsonian.
Portraiture as an artistic tradition emerged from the rise of the European bourgeoisie. It was a mirror that a new ruling class held up to itself, better to preen. That portraiture has largely been limited to representing political and economic elites whose lives are considered heroic or otherwise exemplary is not lost on any visitor to the National Portrait Gallery, which is home to the “nation’s only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House.” But right next to the presidential portraits, a new exhibition, “The Sweat of their Face: Portraying American Workers,” on view until September 3, 2018, seeks to rethink and expand portraiture. Curated by Dorothy Moss, the Portrait Gallery’s Painting and Sculpture curator, and historian emeritus David C. Ward, the nearly 100 objects offer representations of American workers from the antebellum era to the present.
Check out the full post at The New Labor Forum.
Photo Credits: The National Portrait Gallery Website