Decking My Walls

20 09 2008

I’m hoping to get some stuff done this week, as work is very slow right now.  For one, I want to get that last eight foot shelf put up in my office, so I can get around to reorganizing my library.  I also need to make arrangements to frame a recently purchased print.  I may have mentioned this before, but I bought a copy of Don Troiani’s New York’s Bravest, which depicts the 69th New York State Militia and the 11th New York Infantry re-capturing the colors of the former regiment at Bull Run.  I’m not particularly fond of Troiani’s stuff: of the folks working in the ACW art arena these days I only really like Keith Rocco, and overall I find works from the late 19th & early 20th centuries far more appealing.  But the subject matter is what sold me.  Take a look (click on the picture for a larger image):





Inquiring Minds Want to Know…

3 07 2007

 

 mcbragg.jpghhsibley.jpg

…was Confederate general Henry Hopkins Sibley the inspiration for the physical appearance of cartoon legend Commander McBragg?  If the song isn’t running around in your noggin yet, go here and it soon will be.

This post was inspired by the Ayres photo below.  For all you Gilbert & Sullivan fans, he is the very model of a modern major general (though when the war was over he became a lieutenant colonel).  OK, so I’m no lyricist.

ayres3.jpg

 

 





More on Art (As Opposed to Moron Art)

14 06 2007

I’m back from Tennessee (and Mississippi).  There’s nothing like a few days on a battlefield with like-minded fellows to recharge the old batteries.  I’ve compiled a long list of things to write about – including some items carried over from old lists – all the way from more thoughts on books to an article in the new Civil War Times Illustrated to former McNairy County sheriff Buford Pusser. 

Mannie has a new post on Civil War art, taking a close look at a true master, Winslow Homer.  Check it out (proof that great minds really do think alike).  While at the minnatcorinth2.jpgbeautiful Corinth Visitor’s Center (more on that later), I came across a wonderful print of The Fifth Minnesota Regiment at Corinth.  It’s a striking work, oil on canvas painted by Edwin H. Blashfield in 1912, and is one of six paintings of Minnesota regiments in the Governor’s Suite of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.  For $15 I couldn’t resist, even though I realize it will cost many times that price to have it suitably matted and framed.  You can order it direct from Minnesota Historical Society here.

You may recognize part of the painting from the dust jacket of the recent collection of essays, Struggle for a Vast Future.  The full painting depicts a line of Union soldiers, with color guard and mounted officers, advancing over dead and wounded Confederates toward a lone upright Rebel officer fronting a silent battery.  The officer’s carriage and the look on his face can be described as defiantly resigned.  The guns in question are actually a Union battery, being retaken by the Minnesotans who are led by their Colonel, Lucius Hubbard, the apex of the composition.

This thing is gonna look great on my wall.

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…but I know what I like

24 04 2007

I know this isn’t Bull Run related (other than in ways itemized here), but it updates somewhat this post.  The other day I picked up a used copy of Daniel Barefoot’s General Robert F. Hoke, Lee’s Modest Warrior for $9.98.  On the back of the dust jacket is a painting titled Ranger Willie, by Jack Amirian.  It depicts a stretcher borne Willie Hardee, his father standing over him, a mounted Hoke nearby.

The painting is not my style.  In fact, most modern day Civil War art is not my style – I generally find it too “cartoony”, and the overwhelming use of soft blues and grays leaves me with the image of a tattoo on the forearm of an 80 year old sailor – a blue-gray blob (though I’m sure it seemed like a good idea that night in Tokyo).  And why does everyone’s hat look like a gentle breeze would blow it off the wearer’s noggin?  Even the works of painters who strive for more realism bug me.  I mean, the subject matter!  Do we really need to see a young Nathan Bedford Forrest carrying a damsel across a creek, and how many paintings of Stonewall Jackson being alternately kind and gentle with his horse and bathed in heavenly light while at prayer – sometimes both at the same time - can the market bear (apparently a bunch)?

I only own one piece of Civil War art, and it’s by one of the few artists working in the genre whose work I like.  Keith Rocco’s Always Ready is hung above the fireplace in my family room.  It depicts the 9th NY Hawkins’ Zouaves at Antietam.  The print appeals to me on several levels:  I like Keith’s work (check it out in this book); I serve on the board of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation; and the model for the officer holding the Stars and Stripes was an e-quaintance of mine, the late Brian Pohanka.

Rocco’s work is often reminiscent of N. C. Wyeth.  If you don’t recognize the name, or can’t remember which Wyeth he is, think pirates.  His illustrations of buccaneers graced the pages of books like Treasure Island.  He also did Civil War work, like this one of Stonewall Jackson:  

wyeth.jpg

Compare that style to Rocco’s Port Republic below (reproduced with his kind permission):    

 This painting illustrates the early stages of an action in which Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat’s Louisianans assaulted Federal artillery on high ground now famous as “The Coaling”.  Wheat was seriously wounded at First Bull Run, leading his men in the critical action on Matthews Hill.  He was shot in the chest, through and through, and was told he would not recover.  The 275 pound commander of the 1st Special Louisiana Battalion responded: “I don’t feel like dying yet.”  So he didn’t.  He recovered and once again led his battalion in Richard Taylor’s brigade of Ewell’s division of Jackson’s army in the Valley in 1862.  On page 412 of R. K. Krick’s Conquering the Valley is this description by a Louisianan of the scene around the Coaling on June 9, 1862:

 Men ceased to be men.  They cheered and screamed like lunatics – they fought like demons – they died like fanatics…It was not war on that spot.  It was a pandemonium of cheers, shouts, shrieks, and groans, lighted by the flames from cannon and muskets – blotched by fragments of men thrown high into trees by bursting shells.  To lose the guns was to lose the battle.  To capture them was to win it.  In every great battle of the war there was a hell-spot.  At Port Republic, it was on the mountain side.

 wheat.jpgWheat (pictured at left) and his even larger cohort, 300 pound Lt. Col. William R. Peck of the 9th LA, moved among the Federal guns on the Coaling.  The Louisianans had determined that killing the battery horses would prevent the enemy from removing the guns should they be able to retake the ground.  Wheat used his own knife, and was reported as looking “as bloody as a butcher” while doing the job.

Rob Wheat would eventually meet his end at Gaines’ Mill on May 25, 1862.  He’s buried in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.  I will get around to a biographical sketch, but it will be awhile yet.

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Tragic Prelude

9 11 2006

Tragic Prelude

It dawned on me that some readers may not be familiar with the artwork parodied by Free State Brewing Co. on their T-shirts and included in my post To Purge This Land With Beer.  Above is the original artwork by John Steuart Curry, The Tragic Prelude, one of two murals he painted for the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.  I got this image on the Famous Trials website.

Curry was born in Kansas in 1897, and eventually became a well respected resident of the Westport, CT art colony.  With Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, Curry established the US style of art that became known as regionalism.  Signature pieces of the three artists are Baptism in Kansas (Curry), Boomtown (Benton), and the iconic American Gothic (Wood).

In 1937, despite the fact that his work had never been well received in Kansas, at the instigation of several powerful newspapermen Curry was commissioned to cover the statehouse walls with paintings depicting the history of the state.  As work progressed, critics felt the murals (The Tragic Prelude and Kansas Pastorale) did not show the state in a favorable light, focusing on its troubled past and the difficulty of life on the prairies.  The Kansas Council of Women protested “The murals do not portray the true Kansas. Rather than revealing a law-abiding progressive state, the artist has emphasized the freaks in its history – the tornadoes, and John Brown, who did not follow legal procedure.” In 1941, after the completion of the panels in the second floor hallways but before work began in the rotunda (this was to focus on the dangers of poor soil management), the state legislature ordered work halted.  Curry was so outraged that he left the state never to return.  He never signed the paintings, and died in 1946.  Today the paintings are considered masterpieces. 

In 1991, the Kansas Senate issued a resolution which officially recognized the legislature’s poor treatment of one of the state’s most famous sons.  More here.








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