Facing the New World features important paintings by distinguished American artists such as Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, Charles Willson Peale, John Wesley Jarvis, and Ralph Earl. There are portraits by unknown folk-artists and some comparative paintings of non-Jewish subjects, including a work by Joshua Johnson, an accomplished African-American painter active in the Baltimore area.
The book also shows examples of early American drawings, silhouettes, decorative arts, and Jewish ritual objects. In a groundbreaking discussion, Richard Brilliant identifies the European models of representation that artists drew upon in their portraits of Jewish sitters, demonstrating how the self is portrayed by means of cultural roles and images, and how imagery and other modes of representation evolved over time. Ellen Smith explores the tension between Jewish self-representation is portraits and the social reality of early American Jewish life. She reads the portraits as social documents, forming part of the larger material world of early American.
Smith captures the texture of everyday family life and the Jewish community's relationship with the larger society, documented by diaries, letters, business records, and domestics objects that have survived to this day.
Edited by Richard Brilliant and Ellen Smith, hardcover, 111 pages