Limners

As portrayed in Graven Images, itinerant artists roamed the countryside in early 19th century America. Originally sign painters, these artists were essential because few people of that time period could read. Barbers’ poles, fire buckets, stores’ wares, and more were identified by images on signs. As Americans became more prosperous, they desired more luxuries, including painted images of themselves. Sign painters became self-taught artists called limners, the term derived from illuminator. Traveling on horse back, limners went from town to town seeking commissions. To save time, they often prepainted headless bodies beforehand on wooden boards, adding the head with hair and facial features after selling the painting. Today their work is considered folk art, its strangely-flat appearance characteristic of early Americana. Although there’s no indication that limners visited Zoar, they might have.