Saturday, October 17, 2009

Did I mention that I love Silhouettes?

I really do love silhouettes. I think it started in kindergarten when the teacher sat me sideways in a little chair, shined a light on me, and copied my shadow on a paper taped to the wall. I still have that silhouette somewhere, though I can't find it at the moment. That would make me really sad except that the silhouette is of me in the dreaded pigtails. How I HATED pigtails!

But I love silhouettes, and seem to gravitate to them wherever I am, whenever I can.

I thought I would share some of them here, because. . . did I mention that I LOVE silhouettes?

I found a wonderful Mother Goose coloring and drawing book from 1928 that has several pages of silhouettes. The adjoining pages are blank so that a child might try a hand at drawing them. If it weren't so old and so wonderful, and if a long-ago child hadn't done some pretty good drawings in the book, I would be tempted to take it apart and frame this one. Instead, I'll just look at it every now and then.

Over the years, I've collected sheet music with silhouettes, too.

I love the silhouettes on dinnerware.

But my favorites are the small framed silhouettes that were all the rage for a while from the 30s to around the 50s. All have different backgrounds, but the silhouettes are reverse-painted, which means they're painted on the back side of the glass and not on the paper itself. When they're painted on convex glass it creates a 3-D effect with shadows. Most of the 4x6 convex silhouettes were made by the Benton Glass Co., Cleveland, Ohio in the 1940s.

Here's a better view:

The two convex glass silhouettes have printed pictorial backgrounds. Sometimes there is enough detail that a plain background works better.

Like this one.

They were commonly used in advertising, too. This one is from The City Oil Company in Perrysburg, Michigan.

These are a little larger and have backgrounds made up of pressed milkweed spores and straw flowers. They give them a beautiful, shimmery look.

Here is a closeup.

These are just a few from my silhouette collection. I take silhouette photographs, too. This one is of my frog-hunter grandson at the end of the day, still looking. (Don't worry, he only keeps them for a little while, then lets them go.) It's absolutely one my favorites!


  1. I love them also. I just found one yesterday in a box lot of vintage photographs. Your photo is very nice.

  2. Sandy, lucky you! I used to find silhouettes like those I'm showing here at thrift shops like SA, but no more. Everybody else has caught on to how great they are, I think. Anyway, the prices get dearer and dearer!

  3. Isn't it interesting how a striking moment with a teacher will resonate forever? I remember the time we made silhouettes just as you did. I don't have mine any more, but the simple science of light, shape, and shadow has always a magical moment. Recently, some Benton silhouettes were donated to a garage sale benefitting the Mountaineer Military Museum in Weston, W.Va., and I said I would look into their value. What fun it has been. The 1940s were so taken with the ante-bellum era -- do you think it was the lingering romance of Gone with the Wind?

  4. That's to my Aunt Judy, I'm addicted to silhouettes and I have shared the live with my daughter-in-law. Can't get enough!