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Family Portrait

Deborah Goldsmith, American, 1808–1836
Attributed to
Deborah Goldsmith, American, 1808–1836
Oil on panel
Made in
New York, United States, North and Central America
Current Location
On View, Gallery 338
15 3/4 x 11 3/4 in. (40 x 29.9 cm)
framed: 18 x 14 1/4 x 3/4 in. (45.7 x 36.2 x 1.9 cm)
Credit Line
Bequest of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch
Public Domain
Object Number
A father listens as his wife reads to their two small children. Nearby a family servant cradles the baby in her lap (slavery had been abolished in this area in 1827). The quiet of this family gathering contrasts with surprisingly exuberant patterns and textures in the room. The artist formed the lace on the clothing with raised textures, and the floral rug's flattened pattern reveals her talent for surface decoration. Deborah Goldsmith is one of the earliest known American women to embark on a career as a professional portrait painter. She described her “portrait business” in terms similar to male itinerant artists. In 1832, as she traveled through upstate New York, she explained to her fiancée that she couldn’t possibly join him but would stay where she was “as long as I can get portrait painting.”
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