Amongst the Shadows


silhouette [ˌsɪluːˈɛt]


1. the outline of a solid figure as cast by its shadow
2. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Art Terms) an outline drawing filled in with black, often a profile portrait cut out of black paper and mounted on a light ground


So, I was going through my blog’s draft files on WordPress the other day and came upon this 1/2 finished post.

(one of 99 no less, speaking of Short Attention Span Theatre :-()

 I’d been inspired by a shot I’d taken of my older son’s girlfriend cooking in our Sun Valley kitchen last winter.

With the light behind her and the sharp angle of her pretty hair, I was reminded of those old fashioned silhouettes.


A hundred years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a home that didn’t have a silhouette or two hanging on the wall.

jenny fowlerjenny lee fowler

They were insanely popular the world over, from the grand salons of France to ‘Little House on the Prairie’ cabins across America.

gramophone silhouette

107453141081341090_syL7gzLS_cI remember making silhouettes in art class back in elementary school and having my own silhouette done at a fair…

Don’t you?!

remodelista---chapel-lane-irish-linen-winter-feast-here-tea-cloth-b3-jpegLinen napkin image via Remodelista

of course once I started writing the post I began to see images of silhouettes everywhere.



 Was it just that my radar was up, or were they enjoying a revival?

armfield_rchmnd-17Leta Austin Foster


Someone once showed me how to take a photographic silhouette with the settings on my camera. Unfortunately I neither practiced nor wrote the settings down, so that info’s gone….poooof!

I googled it, but most internet directions involve using ‘Photoshop’ after the fact.

and there’s another thing I’ll never learn.

983c596395acf25d73997e164d8f68f1How do you do get the light at the front and dark right behind it??

wedding-photo-by-minneapolis-wedding-photographer-geneoh-photography-19via here

or this effect?

custom chalk

Custom Chalk


Marie Antoinette silhouette via Janelle McCullogh’s “Paris” book

IMG_2127slim paley photo

framed art restoration hardwareRestoration Hardware


perhaps they are having a bit of a renaissance.

Graham MossThis image via Graham Moss is a nice example of how silhouettes can be used to  ‘modern’ effect.


Jenny Lee Fowler

Indeed, they have changed with the times. artist Kara Walker turns the traditional concept of ‘Silhouettes’ on its head with her cut-paper images that critically address gender, sexuality, race and power within an antebellum tableau.

9910_12-kara_walker_6442_GoneKara Walker


Passers-by in the Raval, Barcelona by geoffbcn on Flickr

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 10.51.49 PMSlim Paley photo

More recently, I caught our young sweethearts in another fun moment at the Chicago Museum of Modern Art.

*Note; a few days later my son cut off a full foot of his hair to donate, so I’m happy to have this ‘vintage’ silhouette.

The moustache…I’m still working on. 🙂

890A3551Slim Paley photo

an almost comical silhouette warns of pickpocketing on the streets of Portugal


Last month, the NYC Police vandal squad were busy searching for the elusive British artist Banksy, who’d promised to unveil an installation a day during his month long ‘residency’ in NYC.

Mayor Bloomberg was not amused.

with perfect irony, Banksy’s work of art was tagged right after it was finished…what’s good for the goose…

supporters of Banksy supposedly removed the graffiti.

streetartnews_banksy2013The question (which arose once before on my “Graffiti” post) as to whether these clandestine installations, both on public and private property, constitute ‘Art’ or not is an interesting one.

Though I appreciate arguments on both sides of the aisle, I found myself chuckling at this comment left on one site;

Mike: “…If you want to make art you need to buy materials. brushes, paint, whatever. If you want to make art then buy a canvas, If you want to paint a wall then buy a wall. My wall is not your canvas. If you can’t afford to buy a wall then cry me a river. I want to make landscaping sculptures and so I’m going to come over to your house and dig up your yard to make my sculptures…”
You see how this argument could get heated-
Is there anything more subjective than “Art”?!

BanksyUnfortunately (actually, he probably doesn’t give a toss as it only brought him more publicity) Banksy lost many supporters after he harshly criticized the design of the new World Trade Center.

and usually the British have such good manners!

a15483e27346956f38d9de56a0c40fbdphoto by Ara Guler


Slim Paley photo

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m still rather chuffed with the Instagram ‘silhouette’  I took in Utah a few months back.

It’s always all about the light, isn’t it?!

peter pan

Jenny Lee Fowler


Leaf  silhouettes via Jenny Lee Fowler

Blast from the Past: PHySicAl GrafFiTi 

all other uncredited photos via Flickr or Pinterest


  1. Love silhouettes! Have two of my sons when young given to me by my parents hanging on a wall of family pics that I’ve “photoshopped” into black and white…you could do that, Slim!
    Also have a photo of a Banksey hanging off the top of a building spotted out of a Melbourne tram……
    Love your Utah photo! Chuffed! They use that down here in OZ! Didn’t realize it was a British thing! Will miss that when we finally return to NYC in January…

    Noticed that CAPS are back…how’s the shoulder? Better I hope.

  2. There is a place where you can have your profile used as the ridges of a baby rattle…..wooden rattle turned on a lathe so the result is your profile. No babies here yet but sort of something I will get when grand babies arrive. You might like this. Need to read your blog…how did I miss your blog?!

  3. So glad you found this draft and completed it! I hope you are right about a resurgence in this art! I have two that an artist, Angie gray, made for me and I love them but they arent in prominent places. Maybe they should come out from the shadows!

  4. Slim what a wonderful post! Artists are always asked where they find inspiration; I love that your son’s girlfriend inspired you to begin this post. Also I am so thrilled that you finished it!

    The Arts by Karena

  5. Hi Slim, hope you are feeling better. As always, so excited to see your post in my email this morning. I agree with The Silver Bunny, such an original subject, and you dear Slim are such an original. Love the post, really cool. Have to check out Banksey. Never really gave much thought to silhouettes. One of the many things I love about your posts is not only are they fun, creative, beautiful, interesting and so much more, they are also thought provoking. You know how you sometimes add music, wouldn’t Silhouettes by The Rays be fun?

  6. Ps I do hope you are right about resurgence because at Sallea antiques we are trying to sell a trio of silhouettes for a sweet elderly lady. They are 3 portraits of gentlemen painted by an artist from Dublin in 1839, in original frames!

    • that’s too weird!! As your comment came through, I was just searching for the ‘Origins’ collection for a new project on your website!! AND when I woke up this morning and thought about my post late last night, I wondered if I should have included an image from ‘beasties’- I love them! freaky-deaky!

  7. I have always loved the graphic nature of silhouettes even though they are so old-fashioned. Glad to see they are back in trend. And what California kid does not remember the silhouette shop on Main St in Disneyland? Nice memories

  8. Regarding graffiti, several years ago my then 5 year old daughter filled a super soak type water gun with liquid spray chalk and proceeded to “paint” the outside of the house with it–white house, with orange, yellow and green chalk. When I got home that day from work I was rather upset, and asked her what on earth she was thinking. Amidst a sea of tears she responded “who’s to say this is not art, mom?”

    Besides needing a new caretaker for her while I worked, I knew I was in trouble at that moment.

  9. Great post. I have two little silhouettes in my office I’m looking at right now. One of my son from Kindergarten and one of me that I think was done in Brownies a hundred of years ago. How’s the shoulder? I’ve decided forgo surgery a bit longer. My chiropractor gave me some relief (but he just moved to Santa Barbara!!) though I”m hoping to try someone else. The results of my carpal tunnel surgery weren’t so great (so much scar tissue it’s affecting the nerves) so I don’t have high hopes for post-op shoulder results……..I hate getting old!
    Hope you are on the mend and are in good enough shape to do all that you do for the holidays.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. You’re right Slim …once you start a post about something it seems “it” is everywhere. Let you know if I stumble upon a silhouette today

  11. Love this silhouette post! I love everything about it. I am a collector of silhouettes. I have hung some of them along with the tiniest old portraits over the loo in the powder room. I get a lot of “…ooo, that felt creepy having people watch me!” Makes me chuckle. Great seeing silhouettes from a lot of different perspectives. Thanks, Slim

  12. Another lovely post Miss Slim!
    Have you seen the wonderful ‘Silhouette’ book by Emma Rutherford and Lulu Guinness? It’s a huge coffee-table book all about the history of them, and how they’ve come back into fashion. It’s quite expensive but Amazon will no doubt have affordable copies.

    BTW, that silhouette of Marie Antoinette is from my ‘Paris’ book. It was created by our book’s our designer using a paper bag I brought home from Paris.
    Would you be able to amend the credit please?
    I’m not sure who ‘Paris Pages’ is but they’re a little naughty if they’re taking credit for it.

    Hope your shoulder is feeling better!
    Best wishes from Australia.

    • thanks for the shoulder inquiries! ‘hanging in there’ and slowly getting better each day, though a couple of the physical therapy exercises…NOT fun 🙁

  13. I sympathize with you regarding your shoulder surgery as I had this operation last January (plus they had to shave down a bonespur) however, while I had some discomfort afterwards I actually had very little pain. I had a whole big bottle of some major painkillers but only took a very few. And while I was in a sling for most of the six weeks afterwards, I had to start exercises the day after surgery which I suspect also helped a lot in the helping to loosen up the tightness in the shoulder. I believe that you are also a “lefty” – did you find that this helped? I did as all my life I’ve had to do so much with my right hand that it meant I could adjust quite well (of course I’d also loosened all the lids on jars in the fridge and packaged a lot of things into one size servings ahead of time)! I had to keep warning people when they’d go into the fridge when helping me out. But it has all been worth it in the long run – I have my final check up next week and I am really pleased with the results so I hope you have the same outcome. Take care of yourself.

  14. Glad you liked the room I did (the twin canopy beds with the silhouette on the wall behind)–I like your blog.
    Leta Austin Foster
    Leta Austin Foster & Associates
    Palm Beach and New York City

  15. Wow loved this! Isn’t it great when you find a post you had forgotten. Actually I am a lot like you Slim and have quite a few of such half-done…Silhouettes are so lovely and a forgotten art. I’m so glad there’s a revival. Wonderful collection you gathered!

  16. I’m always a bit behind to look at posts and to leave comments, but wowza…thank you for starting my day with an “Oh my Gody!” Or would that be “Goddy?” In any case, hope the season crackles with happiness and excitement!!!

Would love to hear from you!