The Serious and the Smirk: Portraits from the Collection

July 14, 2018 - October 28, 2018

Violet Oakley (1874-1961), Mrs. Norman Taylor, 1950, Pastel on paper, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. David W. Wood, 1978

Frank Delle Donne (1919-2007), Portrait of Peter, n.d., Oil on board, Bequest of Francesco J. Delle Donne, 2008

George A. Weymouth (1936-2016), Mrs. Battle, 1991, Egg tempera on panel, Anonymous gift, 2001

Ralph Earl (1751-1801), Baron von Steuben, ca. 1786, Oil on canvas, Gift of A. Pennington Whitehead and O. Z. Whitehead, 1994

Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003), Bob Hope, 1940s, Ink on paper, Museum purchase, 2010

“There are only two styles of portrait painting,” Charles Dickens once remarked, “the serious and the smirk.”

Drawn entirely from the collection of the Brandywine River Museum of Art, this exhibition explored the social function of portraits in American history. From traditional portraits of eighteenth-century patriots and families, to studied self-portraits and quick sketches, to witty caricatures, each work addresses the presentation of a person’s identity—sometimes real and sometimes imagined. Viewed together, the works offer insight on who is and is not seen in American society. Works by such diverse artists as Bo Bartlett, Mary Cassatt, Al Hirschfeld, Violet Oakley, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, Andy Warhol, Benjamin West, and George A. Weymouth were included.