Mourning Tears | In this series, I combine the sometimes harsh reality of post mortem tintypes with symbolism used in posthumous paintings of the same era. Recording the dead as a treasured remembrance was common practice in the 19th century and was not considered morbid. Mortality rates were high especially among mothers and children; it was common for babies to remain unnamed until after their first year of life.
Death was an intimate experience which took place at home. Preparation was often carried out by women, who embraced death as a fact of life. It was a custom for the rich to hire an artist to paint the deceased. The artist would incorporate symbolic meaning into the painting to help ease the sadness of those left behind. The invention of the tintype, in the mid 1800’s, was a new inexpensive photographic process which allowed people of all classes to have a loved ones image recorded. This was often the only visual documentation of the deceased. Post mortem tintypes could be a harsh, signs of illness or rigor mortis may be apparent. Sometimes eyes were either forced open or painted on closed lids. The practice of propping the deceased in a chair or even standing, wearing their best clothes was common. As was photographing the deceased among family members.
By adding flowers, color, fabric, objects and scenes to post mortem tintypes, the symbolism used by the posthumus painters, I hopefully create a softer narrative. There is always sadness with death and the tears incorporated in each image pay tribute to both the deceased and the ones left behind. www.lesliesheryll.com