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A Group of Mourning Pictures

Mourning pictures are a powerful expression of the need to preserve memory and process grief. Following the death of George Washington in 1799, memorial prints became popular in the United States as expressions of communal sorrow at the loss of the first president. Representations of tombs, weeping willows, and attendant mourners became part of a commonly recognized aesthetic.


Responding to this trend, the crafting of mourning pictures in embroidery and watercolor was added to the curriculum at girls’ academies. Rather than limiting their memorials to public figures, schoolgirls often honored members of their own families and friendship circles. The mourning picture format was adapted to suit individual circumstances, and makers added names, birth and death dates, and depictions of family members to their compositions. As seen here in the work of Eunice Pinney, further personal details might have been included as well: the gravestone for Reverend Ambrose Todd is inscribed with symbols that would have been important to him as a member of the Masonic fraternal order.


In spite of these individual variations, considered together, the common components of mourning pictures emphasize the universality of grief and the need to enshrine the memories of those we have lost.   

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