[Smiling Man]

Object Details

Title:

[Smiling Man]

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown maker, American

Culture:

American

Date:

1860

Medium:

Ambrotype

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Capturing this man's spontaneous charm in this ambrotype was a remarkable achievement for early photography. He wears casual clothing; a union suit and an open-necked shirt with a lightweight jacket hang easily on his body. He strikes a pose like a boxer, fists upraised and clenched. His open grin, however, disarms the gesture, creating a lively portrait of an individual whose name and life-story have been lost to history.

More remarkable, perhaps, this free man of color was photographed three years before the Emancipation Proclamation granted African Americans their freedom.

Exhibitions
Nineteenth Century American Photography (October 26, 1991 to March 29, 1992)
  • The Amon Carter Museum, (Fort Worth), October 26, 1991 to January 5, 1992
  • Mead Art Museum, (Amherst), February 1 to March 29, 1992
Hidden Witness: African Americans in Early Photography (February 28 to June 18, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), February 28 to June 18, 1995
Education Resources

Education Resource

Subjects

Grades

Format

Historical Witness, Social Messaging

Additional works of art related to the themes and topics of the curriculum.

Breaking the Chains - Intermediate

Lesson about the influence of ancient style of Roman portraiture on Western art and comparing Roman and American slavery.

Visual Arts; History–Social Science

6-8

Three/Five-Part Lesson

Breaking the Chains - Advanced

Lesson in which students write narratives from the perspective of slaves depicted in rare photographs, & create a print of a moment.

Visual Arts; History–Social Science

9-12

Three/Five-Part Lesson