John Carlin

Artist, writer, advocate

John Carlin came from an impoverished background in Philadelphia and had little formal schooling. Supporting himself as a sign-painter, he acquired some professional art education, and even studied with the famed academic painter Paul Delaroche in Paris. After returning to the States, he set up a studio in New York. For many years, he was a pre-eminent miniaturist, sought out by wealthy and prominent families for his exquisite miniature portraits on ivory. After the advent of photography, he switched to more profitable large-scale paintings—landscape, genre, and portraits. He was a splendid signer and prolific writer, the nation’s first published deaf poet. A feisty critic of the Deaf community, he advocated for a deaf people’s college, addressed the assembly on its opening day (June 28, 1864), and received its first honorary degree.

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