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American Faces

A Cultural History of Portraiture and Identity

Richard H. Saunders

Portraits. We know what they are, but why do we make them? Americans have been celebrating themselves in portraits since the arrival of the first itinerant portrait painters to the colonies. They created images to commemorate loved ones, glorify the famous, establish our national myths, and honor our shared heroes. Whether painting in oil, carving in stone, casting in bronze, capturing on film, or calculating in binary code, we spend considerable time creating, contemplating, and collecting our likenesses. In this sumptuously illustrated book, Richard H. Saunders explores our collective understanding of portraiture, its history in America, how it shapes our individual and national identity, and why we make portraits—whether for propaganda and public influence or for personal and private appreciation. American Faces is a rich and fascinating view of ourselves.

Cloth: $45 | E-book: $39.99
ISBN-13: 9781611688924
Pages: 260 | Size: 8.5 in. x 11 in.
Date Published: September 6, 2016
Screenshot-2023-10-11-at-16.51.58

An engaging, light history of the way the United States has embraced images of its people and how these have helped define a national identity.

Art Libraries Society of North America

Reviews

  • An engaging, light history of the way the United States has embraced images of its people and how these have helped define a national identity.

    ARLIS
    Art Libraries Society of North America
  • This book will certainly cause readers to have a better understanding of portraits and to rethink what a picture says, particularly how portraits define and celebrate "our our place in society.

    Maine Antique Digest
  • This is an intriguing treatment of portraiture and nationality identity. . . . Highly recommended.

    Choice
  • This fun, fast-paced tour of American portraiture from the colonial era to the present manages to be both scholarly and quick-witted. Saunders zigzags through our national history in a series of thematically organized chapters to show how Americans have portrayed themselves in art, photography, and other media. Facebook may be a recent phenomenon, but American Faces demonstrates that the compulsive need to present a likeable image of the self to friends and strangers goes back to the founding of the country.

    David M. Lubin
    Author of Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War

About the Author

Richard H. Saunders

Richard H. Saunders is director of the Middlebury College Museum of Art and professor of history of art and architecture. He lives in Middlebury, Vermont.

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