- Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 2004.
- cloth, dust jacket.
- 408 pages.
- ISBN: 1929545150
Price: $49.95 other currencies
Order Nr. 76219
Portraits in the Collection of the American Antiquarian Society grew out of a project initiated by Georgia B. Barnhill, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts at the American Antiquarian Society, to update the documentation of the Society's portrait collection reflecting its growth since 1946.
The collection is an eclectic one that represents many aspects of the history of the Society: the interests of benefactors who gave their collections to the Society and the impulse to commemorate the Society's leadership. A number of portraits came into the collection with or because of related manuscript or book collections or were commissioned by the Society, and, for these, there is extraordinary information about the circumstances of their production.
Art historian Linda J. Docherty addresses the eclectic nature of the collection in an introductory essay in which she notes that "subject matter always took precedence over artistic quality at the Society, which, eschewing aesthetic standards, formed a collection of visual range and great historical import." Hewes, in addition to drafting catalogue entries for each portrait, has written an essay providing an overview of the 164 painted portraits, miniatures, and busts that comprise the Society's portrait collection. She observes that, like other institutional collections, these portraits speak to the Society's mission by reminding its staff of the individuals and ideas that preceded them. But, because AAS is primarily a research library of American history and culture, many of the images are of individuals closely affiliated with the Society's book and manuscript holdings. The Society has not limited itself to the collection of only aesthetically perfect canvases by famed artists, although works by important painters such as Peter Pelham and Christian Gullager became part of the collection in the nineteenth century. The assembling of representative works of period artists has never been a collecting objective; indeed, the observation by a visitor to the Society in 1841 that 'some of them [are] curious specimens of the art of design' still pertains. With 203 black-and-white illustrations and a 24-page color insert. Distributed for the American Antiquarian Society.