Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Silhouettes on the shade!"

Whenever I do silhouettes at festivals or other events, people ask me questions about the history of Silhouettes, and love sharing annecdotes about how their teacher in elementary school set up a light and cast their shadow on the wall and traced their silhouette.!  At the festival in Alfred last weekend someone walked by and as soon as he saw my silhouette sign started singing that old song "Silhouettes on the Shade"! I think I'll have to have that song playing in the background at my next gig! What do you think?

What specifically are Silhouettes and how long have silhouettes been around anyway? 
Wikipedia states that  a "silhouette is an image of a person, object or scene represented as a solid shape of a single color, usually black, its edges matching the outline of the subject."
I've heard that Silhouettes could have originated in ancient Greece, but most historical sources mention that that they became particularly popular in the mid-18th century, though they weren't called Silhouettes till the early part of the 19th century. They were often found in the homes of the working class and were less expensive than an oil painting or portrait miniature which were popular in higher society.

This traditional silhouette portrait dates from the late 1800's.

Many silhouettists would cut a side portrait in a matter of minutes out of black paper by just looking and cutting. Others would draw the profile first as an outline and then paint it in. Many would cut the profile or "bust portrait" out of black paper, adhere it to white paper, and then embellish it with added drawn lines to indicate hair or other decorations. Some used some kind of tracing device to help create the image, and yes, some probably set up a candle or some  other light and traced a person's shadow!

At the time Silhouettes were also known as shades. It amazes me that paper can actually last as long as some silhouettes have! There are several good historic silhouettes in display at Jeffer's Tavern in York Village! A month ago I was invited to do Silhouettes at York Village and was happy to join a class in progress of junior docents in training . They were in period costume and let me cut their silhouettes! I will be there again as part of Market Fest. on Oct. 19th doing silhouettes for the public!

These two silhouettes were cut by me a month or so ago at Jeffer's Tavern in York Village, Maine. They are members of the docent program at York Village and were in period costume at the time!

A silhouette of my husband Larry! Mustaches are fun to cut!

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