Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now


by Asma Naeem (Author), Penley Knipe (Contributor), Alexander Nemerov (Contributor), Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw (Contributor), Anne Verplanck (Contributor)

The first book highlighting the historical roots and contemporary implications of the silhouette as an American art form.

Before the advent of photography in 1839, Americans were consumed by the fashion for silhouette portraits. Economical in every sense, the small, stark profiles cost far less than oil paintings and could be made in minutes. Black Out, the first major publication to focus on the development of silhouettes, gathers leading experts to shed light on the surprisingly complex historical, political, and social underpinnings of this ostensibly simple art form. In its examination of portraits by acclaimed silhouettists, such as Auguste Edouart and William Bache, this richly illustrated volume explores likenesses of everyone from presidents and celebrities to everyday citizens and enslaved people. Ultimately, the book reveals how silhouettes registered the paradoxes of the unstable young nation, roiling with tensions over slavery and political independence.

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