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The Sweat of Their Face

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The Sweat of Their Face by David C. Ward, Dorothy Moss and John Fagg
Hardcover $39.95
Oct 31, 2017 | ISBN 9781588346056

Also available from:

  • Oct 31, 2017 | ISBN 9781588346056

    Also available from:

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This is this catalogue for an exhibition running at the National Portrait Gallery through September 2018 featuring paintings, prints, and photographs of Americans at work. As Ward explains in an introduction, this at first seems straightforward. However, he sees the material as paradoxical because it is “impossible to create an authentic portrait of a member of the working or laboring class.” Ward sees this impossibility as stemming from the historical connection of portraiture to the upper class and from the reality that workers deny “one’s individual selfhood.” The greatest strength of the book is the essay by Moss, in which she juxtaposes different artists’ works. For example, she pairs Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930) with a compositionally similar 1942 photograph by Gordon Parks of an African American custodian. David Hockney’s painting Man in Shower in Beverly Hills (1964) is matched with a 2013 parody of the Hockney work by Ramiro Gomez titled Woman Cleaning Shower in Beverly Hills. An essay by art historian John Fagg about individual and collective labor is also insightful. The book will appeal to those interested in labor as well as to art historians.

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