One of the most effective and enjoyable ways of studying Civil War memory is by looking at the various images produced at different times. I tend to look at images not simply for what they are purported to be about, but as reflective of the artist and the time in which they were produced. There are no better examples of this dynamic than from the Civil War. Contemporary images, especially those produced by mainstream-popular artists tend to give me a good laugh. They include Troiani, Kunstler, Gallon, etc. Gary Gallagher recently completed a book-length study of images of the Civil War so keep an eye out if that kind of thing interests you.
One of my favorite images of late is titled “Trinity” by Clyde Broadway (copyright, 1994 Clyde Broadway). I’ve used this image on two occasions and both times I failed to credit the artist. The original can be found in the permanent collection of the Ogden Museum of Art at the University of New Orleans. Mr. Broadway emailed me to remind me of my failure to credit both the artist and the museum in which the painting is located. Along with a justified mild scolding he mentioned that the painting includes a gold border, which was absent from the image I utilized. The image is included in Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s new study of R. E. Lee, which I’ve commented on over the past week.
The way in which Broadway depicts religion and Lee stands in sharp contrast with what you will find in Civil War magazines. There is a highly critical quality in this image that forces you to think rather than revel in the unspoken assumptions that define our popular beliefs about the South and religion. Broadway seems to be poking fun at our tendency to equate Jesus and Lee (and perhaps all things Southern) almost exclusively to the rest of the country.