Wednesday, February 5, 2014

John Carlin, Pioneering Deaf Painter

 John Carlin, born in 1813, became deaf as an infant, yet overcame his disability to become a well known landscape and portrait painter. The circumstances of his life and accomplishments are extraordinary and reveal a great deal about him as a person and the understanding - or lack of - and treatment of the hearing impaired in the mid-nineteenth century.

The following information is taken from Questroyal Fine Art, LLC's entry for the artist (the full entry and references may be found at: )

"John Carlin (1813–1891)

Pioneering Deaf Painter, Writer, Poet, and Public Sign-Speaker

By Amy Spencer

"Carlin was born in Philadelphia in 1813. His father was a cobbler who struggled to find work to support the family. Carlin became deaf in infancy and, without the ability to communicate with or understand instruction from his parents, was left to roam the streets of Philadelphia.

"In the late 1810s, a merchant and philanthropist named David Seixas founded an informal school for deaf children in his Philadelphia home. In 1820 Seixas found Carlin on the streets and brought him to his school. Around the same time, Seixas hired pioneering deaf teacher Laurent Clerc to help the fledgling school. Carlin thrived at the Mount Airy School (now the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf), learning reading, writing, sign language, and painting, which he loved.

"After graduating in 1825 at the age of 12, Carlin supported himself as a sign and house painter. He continued to study and draw in his spare time and by age 19 had mastered five foreign languages.....

"In 1843 Carlin married Mary Wayland (a relative of President Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State, William Henry Seward) who was also deaf. The couple raised five children together, none of who were hearing-impaired. Three years after his marriage, Carlin published his poem, “A Mute’s Lament” in the first issue of American Annals of the Deaf. He went on to publish many poems in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and various newspapers. Carlin also wrote and illustrated a children’s book The Scratchside Family, in 1868. He also published an article, “The National College for the Deaf,” in The American Annals of the Deaf in 1854.

"From the early 1850s, Carlin began actively participating in deaf community affairs in addition to painting. Carlin helped raise $6,000 to build St. Ann’s Episcopal Church for the Deaf in New York. Erected in 1852, this church was founded by Reverend Thomas Gallaudet, and was the first church for deaf people in the United States. Carlin was a member of this church for the next forty years.
Carlin was also secretary of the committee in charge of financing a monument to Thomas Gallaudet at the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in Hartford, Connecticut."
John Carlin

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