Brewster's Legacy, 1820-1854

After leaving the school, Brewster had a decision to make, whether to leave behind this new Deaf community and rejoin the hearing world or to embrace the new Deaf world. Brewster ultimately decided to live amongst the hearing. His choice probably had a lot to do with his age; Brewster had already made his way in the hearing world and was successful in his trade. He was extremely close to his hearing family, especially his brother Dr. Royal Brewster and his family with whom John Brewster Jr. lived most of his life.
 
Brewster's stay at the school changed his art. He left the Connecticut Asylum in 1820, and returned to his artistic career with a renewed vigor. His paintings from the 1820s and early 1830s show more depth in characterization, increased shading that reflected faces that were more somber, as well being half-length and using the popular Empire-style amber colored tones. Brewster painted many portraits in this style at least until 1834, the date of his last known portrait. Little is known of his later years but it is likely that he gave up traveling and painting and lived quietly in Buxton until his death in 1854.
 
Brewster was one of the greatest folk painters in American history as one of the key figures in the Connecticut style of American Folk Portraiture. In addition, Brewster's paintings serve as a key part of Maine history. Brewster was the most prolific painter of the Maine elite, documenting through the portraits details of the life of Maine's federal elite. Though Brewster chose to live among the hearing, his deafness was inextricably linked and affected his art and thus Brewster is one of the many great Deaf painters. Above all, the courage, determination and strength that Brewster demonstrated in overcoming the myriad of communication challenges he faced in creating his art leaves a powerful legacy that both hearing and Deaf alike can strive to follow.

Return to the article featuring A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.

 


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