black and white photo of five Russian steelworkers in Pennsylvania
Russian Steel Workers / Lewis Wickes Hine / 1909 (printed 1942) / Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard / Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts. Transfer from Hillyer Art Library

The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers

November 3, 2017 - September 3, 2018
Second floor

“The Sweat of Their Face” combines art and social history with representations of American laborers across genres and centuries of art. Artists such as Winslow Homer, Dorothea Lange, Elizabeth Catlett and Lewis Hine depict laborers throughout the changing landscape of America; from child and slave laborers to miners, railway and steel workers, to the modern gradual disappearance of the worker. Approximately 75 objects in all media (including video) highlight a point of connection between the artists and their predominately anonymous subjects.

This exhibition features loans from such notable institutions as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Phillips Collection and The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, among others.

This exhibition is curated by Portrait Gallery Curator of Painting and Sculpture Dorothy Moss and Historian Emeritus, David C. Ward. An accompanying catalogue will feature essays from both curators, as well as British art historian John Fagg.

  • Color photograph of woman operating factory machinery

    Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas by Howard R. Hollem / Digital inkjet print from 4 x 5 color transparency, 1942 (printed 2017)/ Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

  • Painting of man working at a forge

    Pat Lyon at the Forge by John B. Neagle / Oil on canvas, 1829 / Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; gift of the Lyon family (1842.1)


  • Portrait of an African American woman in a long dress and apron

    Miss Breme Jones by John Rose / Watercolor and ink on paper, 1785-87 / Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Virginia; Museum purchase, the Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund

  • Tommy (Holding His Bootblack Kit) by Jacob Riis / Modern gelatin silver print from dry plate negative, c. 1890 (printed from original negative, 1994) Museum of the City of New York, New York City; gift of Roger William Riis, 1990

  • Black and white photo of a grape picker wearing a hat

    Grape Picker, Berryessa Valley, California, 1956, from 'Portfolio Two' by Pirkle Jones / Gelatin silver print, 1956 ? Bank of America Collection © Special Collections, University Library, University of Santa Cruz: Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch Photographs

  • Black and white photo of a child working in a factory

    Child Labor, c. 1908 by Lewis Wickes Hine / Gelatin silver print, c. 1908 Bank of America Collection

This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of:  Chapman Hanson Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Hunter S. Allen, Jr., Dr. and Mrs. Paul Carter, Patricia and Walter Moore, Mr. and Mrs. John Daniel Reaves, The Stoneridge Fund of Amy and Marc Meadows, Mark Aron, and Ronnyjane Goldsmith.  Additional support received from the American Portrait Gala Endowment.