top of page

The Art
Laurent Clerc

Laurent Clerc has been a subject for many artists over the years. Others have chosen to make art inspired by Laurent and his impact on the Deaf community. This page attempts to capture these extrodinary  pieces and the artists that created them. 

Laurent Clerc Virtual Art Gallery

Screen Shot 2022-11-03 at 10.58.16 AM.png

Our Story

Laurent Clerc lived a life primary before the invention of the camera. While there are a few photos of Laurent which give us a glimpse of him, frozen in portraits that were common at the time.


Even more intriguing are the works of art that represent how artist of his time perceived him.

Painted portraits, also common throughout his life, show us various stages of his life cycle.


But even more compelling are the works of art from artists around the world that never met Laurent during his lifetime. Works of art that they feel connect with and memorialize his contributions to the Deaf Community and to the development of American Sign Language.


Here in the Laurent Clerc Virtual Art Gallery we try to bring together old and new works related to Laurent Clerc. We hope that we have collected the few known paintings and drawings of the past and situate them with works by young and old artist.

Please come and have a visit into the world of Laurent Clerc and enjoy the many artists and their works honoring his contributions.


-Laurent Clerc Holt-


Newest Addition


“In eyes of evolution of Laurent Clerc Era”Winter Sluyter-Obidos, 

12 Grade, California School for the Deaf, Riverside

Portraits of Laurent Clerc

While our virtual gallery contains the portraits presented below, we felt that we wanted to do a deeper dive into some of the more iconic and well known. In this section we will highlight the most famous representations of Laurent Clerc. 

John Carlin

Screenshot 2023-12-13 at 3.05.51 PM.png

Born in Philadelphia, John Carlin was remarkable in his day as a deaf-mute painter and poet. He was one of sixteen original students at the Pennsylvania Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, from which he graduated in 1825. From 1833 to 1834, he studied portraiture and drawing in Philadelphia. In 1838 he traveled to London to study art.  He later went to Paris, studying with Paul Delaroche, before returning to the United States in 1841, where he lived in New York City and established himself as a miniaturist. With the advent of photography, the need for miniature portrait paintings became obsolete, and Carlin turned to painting the landscapes and genre scenes for which he is best known.

Carlin’s poem "The Deaf-Mute's Lament" was published in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier, and others appeared elsewhere, causing a stir because no one had ever heard of a deaf poet. The editor of the American Annals of the Deaf wrote, “we should almost as soon expect a man born blind to become a landscape painter, as one born deaf to produce poetry of even tolerable merit.” Carlin also wrote articles on architecture that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post magazine. In 1868 he published a children's book, The Scratchiest Family, with drawings of monkeys engraved by another deaf artist. 

John Carlin was active in the deaf community and helped to raise over $6,000 for the St. Ann Church for the Deaf in New York. From 1873 to 1881 he chaired a fundraising committee to build the Gallaudet Home for Aged and Infirm Deaf, and he was influential in Edward Miner Gallaudet's decision to found Gallaudet University for the deaf. In 1864 Carlin spoke at the opening of Gallaudet University, and he later received the first honorary Master of the Arts degree proffered by the university.

Carlin became a member of the Artists’ Fund Society in 1859, where he frequently exhibited. He also exhibited extensively at the National Academy of Design. His work is represented in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts; Smithsonian American Art Museum and Gallaudet University, Washington, D. C.; Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore; Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Kentucky School for the Deaf, Danville. His brother Andrew Carlin was deaf and also worked as an artist.

                    -GODEL & CO., INC.-

Charles Willson Peale
(1741 – 1827)

Screenshot 2023-12-14 at 8.35.34 AM.png

Charles Willson Peale was an American painter, soldier, scientist, inventor, politician, and naturalist. In 1775, inspired by the American Revolution, Peale moved from his native Maryland to Philadelphia, where he set up a painting studio and joined the Sons of Liberty. During the American Revolutionary War, Peale served in the Pennsylvania Militia and the Continental Army, participating in several military campaigns. In addition to his military service, Peale also served in the Pennsylvania State Assembly from 1779 to 1780.

Peale's portraits of leading American figures of the late 18th century are some of the most recognizable and prominent from that era. In 1801, he founded the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, one of the first American museums. More than two centuries after Peale painted his 1779 portrait Washington at Princeton, the painting sold for $21.5 million, the highest price ever paid for an American portrait.

More information about these portraits can be found in the "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society", Vol. 42, No. 1 (1952), pp. 1-369 (367 pages), where they published an article called: "Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale" By Charles Coleman SellersCharles Willson Peale. This article lists interesting facts about the portraits and the painters notes about the sittings and creation of these masterpieces in Deaf History.

Screenshot 2023-12-14 at 8.31.46 AM.png

In 2022 we discovered at the Wilton Library in Wilton, CT papers of the late Francis Clerc Ogden, mentioned in the article above. They had been given to the Wilton Historical Society (WHS) in around 1970 by Francis, Laurent and Eliza's great grandson. They were given to the WHS around 1970 and housed in the Wilton Library History Room around 1981. In these papers were some exciting discoveries. First was a letter from Charles to Laurent asking for a sitting and assuring him that he would produce a quality painting. Laurent was apparently hesitant because he did not consider himself a "curiosity" but then he realized that Charles fame might make sitting for him an asset. We are glad he did. 

Screenshot 2023-12-14 at 10.29.13 AM.png

Where these paintings went after they were painted is now know from the article above. The portraits were displayed separately, with Laurent's at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Eliza's at Peale's Philadelphia Museum. This link gives a better idea of where the portraits were before they were sold at auction in 1854 and bought by Albert Newsman, a deaf artist and former student of Laurent's at the Pennsylvania School for the DeafWe have a wonder letter from Albert to Laurent making arrangements for the paintings, purchased for $20 USD, to be sent to Hartford, CT.

The paintings remained with the Clerc family, we assume, in Hartford until they were given to their eldest son, Francis Clerc. We assume that they were given to his daughter, Adele Revert Clerc (Ogden) and ended up in the procession of Francois Clerc Ogden of Wilton, CT. 


 As for the portraits, Francois Clerc Ogden, put them in his will and that they be donated to American School for the Deaf (ASD) at the time of his death. We are told that the portraits hung on either side of Francis' fireplace in his Wilton, CT home. After their transition to ASD around 1970, the portraits laid on the floor of a closet at the history room in the old school building. Later, there was an idea that their value could be a boost to the finances of ASD. Legend has it that my grandfather, Guy Bryan Holt, President of the Board advocated for them to remain. Later, in ...... the portraits were placed on permanent loan to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Here is a ASL tour provided by Jef Bravin, Director of ASD:

-Laurent Clerc Holt-

The Kentucky Portrait

This portrait of Laurent Clerc hangs in Jacobs Hall, the museum at the Kentucky School for the Deaf. 


What we presently know about this portrait. 

  • In September of 2013: Jacobs Hall's portrait of Laurent Clerc was stabilized by Mary Girard, who had secured the paint, especially

around Clerc's face.

Screenshot 2024-03-07 at 5.29.59 AM.png

Let’s Work Together

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page