an early-nineteenth-century painter, created sympathetic portraits of family and friends in the community and surrounding areas of New York State where she lived.Economic necessity was thought to motivate the young woman, though there is no evidence to corroborate this. One scholar suggests that Goldsmith became anitinerant painter to support her parents. Although there are no advertisements in newspapers from the communities in which her patrons resided, proof that she traveledand painted portraits for residents of Brookfield, North Brookfield, Hamilton, Lebanon, Cooperstown, Hartwick, Toddsville, and Hubbardsville is documented in her own records between 1826 and 1832. Goldsmith stopped seeking professional commissions in 1832, the year she married George Addison Throop, a patron and amember of a family for whom she painted. Their marriage followed a correspondence with Throop in which Gold-smith voiced her concerns about their differentreligious affiliations (she was a devout Baptist, he was a Universalist), the fact that she was two years older than he, and that her teeth were partially artificial.The legacy of this young woman consists of watercolors on paper and ivory, as well as portraits in oil. Her friendship albums were filled with poetry, interspersedwith decorative motifs of birds, flowers, musical instruments, landscapes, illustrated copies of prints, and a mourning picture. The artist left correspondence, her worktable, and a tin paint box, with watercolor powders wrapped in newspapers and oils stored in tins.Goldsmith’s masterpieces are two group portraits, one of the
Lyman Day Family (1823),
and the other of the
(1832). These group portraits,important documents of social history, are replete with interior painted details, furnishings, carpet, wallpaper, and accessories. In the Day portrait, husband and wife are presented in a spare but well-appointed anddecorated room, seated side by side, and looking directly at the viewer. The marriage seems a harmonious partnership, with Mr. Day’s right arm extended over Mrs.Day’s chair rail. Mrs. Day’s role as wife and mother is clearly delineated: seated next to her husband, she is responsible for the baby she holds on her lap. Mr. Day’srole as provider is understood by the subtle emphasis placed on his worldly interests, such as by the placement of a newspaper on his lap.Goldsmith’s parents, Richard and Ruth Miner Gold-smith, settled in Brookfield, New York, having moved from Guilford, Connecticut, between 1805 and 1808.Although Brookfield was small, Goldsmith benefited from her proximity to nearby Hamilton, with its vital religious revivals and strong educational opportunities.Her early death followed weeks of sickness. Gold-smith left two children, whose descendants preserved her memory over the generations.
Painting, American Folk
Dewhurst, C.Kurt, et al.
Artists in Aprons: Folk Art by American Women.
New York, 1979.Jones, Agnes Halsey.
Rediscovered Painters of Upstate New York, 1700–1875.
Utica, N.Y., 1958.Lipman, Jean, and Alice Winchester, eds.
Primitive Painters in America.
New York, 1950. ——. “Deborah Goldsmith, Itinerant Portrait Painter.”
The Magazine Antiques,
vol. 44 (November 1943): 227–230.Shaffer, Sandra C.
Deborah Goldsmith, 1808–1835: A Naïve Artist in Upstate New York.
St. Louis, Mo., 1968