Minnesota’s Battle

There’s a battle going on at the Minnesota state capitol: Turns out some really beautiful canvasses were removed for restoration, and the discussion is now ongoing over whether to replace them with more modern and inclusive artwork. I am a little torn; I am all for modernizing and inclusive-izing the artwork, but one of the paintings at issue is this incredible work by Howard Pyle, “The Battle of Nashville”.  Here’s hoping Minnesota can find some room over its mantel for this excellent and moving piece. (And if they can’t, I’ll happily rehome it!)

Source: Fight erupts over Civil War art at the Minnesota State Capitol | INFORUM


I’ve been busy with an art project lately, so haven’t been updating, which is bad timing given we’re into the home stretch of the sesquicentennial. I’ve taken a few minutes to put my art aside and post someone else’s: Here’s a copy of my favourite Appomattox painting, by Tom Lovell. While still not 100% authentic, it’s beautifully painted and shows the two heroes at their separate tables. Lee looking solemn as Taylor dispassionately supervises the paperwork, and Grant leaning over intently. It’s a great scene, and wonderfully emotive. The closest we’ll get to time travel is through the brushstrokes of artists like this.

The Peacemakers

It’s the 150th anniversary of the River Queen conference, which – of all the great events and happenings from 1860-1865, is the one I most wish I could witness. Sherman in all his glory reunites with his elevated friend Grant. Sherman also meets Lincoln the reelected for the first time in 4 years, after getting off on the wrong foot back at the war’s outset, and finds himself captivated. The men lay out amongst themselves a tentative plan for a humane and thoughtful Reconstruction. That rainbow in the background of the famous painting belied what actually happened, but to me, this was the brief shining moment of the Civil War.

The Peacemakers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Peacemakers – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Civil War Commemorations

Some special events to consider, for those in the area or willing to travel to partake!

In Dearborn, MI, the Henry Ford Museum is having an assassination commemoration, with Doris Kearns Goodwin speaking.  I got a laugh out of the pricing tiers, which include balcony seats and general floor admission, but no options for participants travelling from the balcony to the floor. Bit of an oversight given the topic on hand 😉

On April 13, as we mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, we will host Lincoln’s Legacy: An Evening with Doris Kearns Goodwin…

More than a commemoration of Lincoln’s death, her talk will show how the experiences faced by Lincoln, one of our most unlikely presidents, carry so much relevance to Americans in 2015.



And New Jersey locals, take note! There is a Thomas Nast exhibition on this year at Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, with a special presentation on the 22nd of February.  From this sounds of it, this venue is the premier collection of Nast’s work, so I’m sure they have some excellent art (and history) on display.

Mounted to commemorate the final year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015), this second floor exhibit at Macculloch includes a number of these images. “The Civil War through the Eyes of Thomas Nast” is on exhibit through December 2015.

On Sunday Feb. 22 Macculloch Hall Historical Museum (MHHM) F.M Kirby Curator of Collections Ryan Hyman presents “The Work of Thomas Nast.” During this presentation Hyman will highlight Nast’s most popular political cartoons and a few interesting but lesser known images. During the program Ryan will also discuss some of Nast’s political cartoon work about the Civil War, some of which is currently on display.

via Thomas Nast’s Civil War at Macculloch Hall in Morristown – New Jersey Hills: Morris NewsBee News.

Winslow Homer in Maine

It’s too far for me to visit, but if you’re in the vicinity of Portland, ME in the next months, stop by the Portland Museum of Art.  This exhibit of Winslow Homer Civil War works promises to be spectacular.  Homer was on the front lines as a Harper’s war artist, and produced some memorable images.

In conjunction with the Maine Civil War Trail, a state-wide series of special displays at more than 20 institutions commemorating the sesquicentennial of the conflict, the Portland Museum of Art will present a focused exhibition on the war-related imagery of the American artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910). On view at the PMA from September 7 through December 8, Winslow Homer’s Civil War will feature 29 wood engravings and other prints drawn from the PMA’s permanent collection. The exhibition will examine the artist’s unique vision of this event and its profound impact on American society.

via Portland Museum of Art opens Winslow Homer Civil War focused exhibition.

The Civil War and American Art

Wow. I’ll need to add New York to my to-do list for this year, as this fabulous exhibition will have left DC before I’m due to visit.  The Smithsonian has linked to a PDF catalogue of the works on display and they are almost all pieces I recognize.  A greatest hits of Civil War artwork.  If you’re in NY or DC this year, run don’t walk.

The Civil War and American Art includes 75 works—57 paintings and 18 vintage photographs. The artworks were chosen for their aesthetic power in conveying the intense emotions of the period. Homer and Johnson grappled directly with issues such as emancipation and reconciliation. Church and Gifford contended with the destruction of the idea that America was a “New Eden.” Most of the artworks in the exhibition were made during the war, when it was unclear how long it might last and which side would win.

The exhibition also includes battlefield photography, which carried the gruesome burden of documenting the carnage and destruction. The visceral and immediate impact of these images by Alexander Gardner, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, and George Barnard freed the fine arts to explore the deeper significance of the Civil War, rather than chronicle each battle.

via Exhibitions: The Civil War and American Art / American Art.

Visions of hell on Earth

When I was a kid, I wallpapered my room in Civil War posters. This Andersonville print was among them. Neat to
learn so much about the man who drew it. Hooray again for enthusiastic small town historians!

When Perreault was around 9, his aunt brought him to the home of O’Dea’s daughter, Emma O’Dea, a grade school teacher who lived above a liquor store at 15 Broadway. As the young boy entered a dark hallway, he came upon an imposing 4 1/2-by-9-foot pencil sketch that Thomas O’Dea created from his memories at Camp Sumter prison in Andersonville, Ga.

He drew the large bird’s-eye, panoramic view of the camp, along with 20 surrounding vignettes depicting disease, hunger and death within the prison’s walls. The dark images left a lasting impression on Perreault. “It became a lifelong fascination,” he said.

via From Andersonville, visions of hell on Earth – Times Union.

S. P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden

Every once in a while, my “Civil War” Google Alert tosses back a really unusual hit:  Here’s a website detailing the work of a Union Army veteran who lived in Kansas created an art house out of cement.  A hayseed Gaudí.  (I also love the “One of the Wonders of Kansas!” decal. Oh, Kansas Tourism, you really are trying your best.)

“This is my sign – GARDEN OF EDEN – I could hear so many, as they go by, sing out, “What is this?” so I put this sign up. Now they can read it, stop or go on, just as they please.”

The porches, side walks, fence, strawberry and flower beds, fish pool, grape-arbor three U. S. flage, adam and Eve, the devil, coffin, jug, visitors dining hall, labor crucified, two bird and animal cages, and wash house are all made with cement. Up to this date, July 1, 1927, over 113 tons , or 2,273 sacks of cement has been used.

via History of S. P. Dinsmoors Garden of Eden.

Mardi Gras Floats

It seems 10 years of Union occupation didn’t diminish New Orleans’ loathing of Ben Butler.  This neat Mardi Gras float design shows they’d moved on from chamber pots to other forms of effigy.  Note the eponymous Spoons!

In 1873, Mardi Gras revelers from the Mistick Krewe of Comus — unversed in this newfangled evolutionary theory and angry at the Northern interlopers — dressed up as the “missing links” between animals, plants, and humans. Therefore, you had frightening human-grape and human-corn hybrids running around and fauna baring the faces of Ulysses S. Grant, other hated politicians, and Darwin himself.

via Bizarre Mardi Gras floats of yesteryear – Boing Boing.

Civil War Reenvisioned

Here’s a novel twist on reenacting: Recreating the technological, rather than the social, aspects of the war.  I love the witty spin he puts on it by photographing reenactments. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the station wagon unless it was pointed out to me.

This Civil War photograph was …wait, are those porta-potties in the background? And a station wagon? Yes, this photograph is less than a year old, but you can imagine someone cropping it and using it as a Civil War photo sometime in the future. Photographer Richard Barnes shoots Civil War reenactments using techniques authentic to the period, such as wet-plate photography.

via Civil War Reenvisioned.