Emily Eastman is known through a group of related watercolors that depict young women in fashionable styles of the early nineteenth century. Highly decorative, each features a woman with her head tilted slightly to the side, her elaborate ringlets framing a classical face. The strong features are sharply delineated, with precise lines forming the curved brows and shape of the nose. The watercolors most likely were based on print sources, but none has been specifically identified to date. The watercolors are reminiscent, however, of fashion plates that were published in Europe, such as Ackerman’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, which first appeared in London in 1809 and continued through 1829. Illustrations such as these, which were distributed in periodicals and as separate plates, were influential in determining American taste in clothes. The types of dresses pictured in Eastman’s watercolors were parodied in the pages of contemporary magazines such as The Lady’s Magazine, which aptly described the costume pictured in Woman with Veil: “Manners of the Parisian Ladies. . . . Our fair females are covered with transparent shawls, which float and flutter over their shoulders and upon their bosoms, which are seen through them. With gauze veils, which conceal half of the face to pique our curiosity.”
Eastman apparently worked through the 1820s, based on the dress and hairstyles depicted in her watercolors. Beyond the fact that she was born in Loudon, New Hampshire, and married Dr. Daniel Baker in 1824, little more is known about her. She may be the Emily Eastman who was born to Ruth Carter and David Eastman and died in 1841.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Woman in Veil," in American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 378.