‘The Sweat of Their Face’: Portraits of the American Worker, Through the Centuries

To honor Labor Day, a look at the companion book to a major new National Portrait Gallery exhibit of the core value that drives the American dream.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Work ethic is a core value of America. It is the fuel that propels the tenacity of the American dream. The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers, a book that accompanies a coming exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., showcases a multifaceted collection of hardworking Americans that represent social history across centuries of art.

Artists such as Dorothea Lange, Winslow Homer, and Elizabeth Catlett depict the shifting landscape of America; from steel workers to child and slave laborers and miners. In addition, the National Portrait Gallery, which will open the exhibit on Nov. 3, analyzes working-class subjects as they appear in artworks by artists including Shauna Frischkorn, Lewis Hine, and others.

This book is visually compelling exploration of the history of work itself through its impact on the men and women from the 18th century through industrialization. On this Labor Day, a look at the works depicting the faces, lives, and hands that built America.

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