With the help of my book credits earned through Amazon’s affiliate program I recently purchased The Civil War and American Art. It’s incredible. While I enjoy looking at art, I don’t spend nearly enough time reading about it. In the introduction I came across Everett B.D. Fabrino Julio’s The Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson, which as many of you know is located at the Museum of the Confederacy. I did not know that Julio initially offered the painting to Lee himself as a gift, who politely refused. I mean, where would you put it given the painting’s dimensions.
For a time it was on public display in New Orleans, which is where Mark Twain viewed it. Here is his colorful review.
[I]n the Washington Artillery building…we saw…a fine oil-painting representing Stonewall Jackson’s last interview with General Lee. Both men are on horseback. Jackson has just ridden up, and is accosting Lee. The picture is very valuable, on account of the portraits, which are authentic. But like many another historical picture, it means nothing without its label. And one label will fit it as well as another:
First Interview between Lee and Jackson.
Last Interview between Lee and Jackson.
Jackson introducing himself to Lee.
Jackson Accepting Lee’s Invitation to Dinner.
Jackson Declining Lee’s Invitation to Dinner–with Thanks.
Jackson Apologizing for a Heavy Defeat.
Jackson Reporting a Great Victory.
Jackson Asking Lee for a Match.
It tells one story, and a sufficient one; for it says quite plainly and satisfactorily, “Here are Lee and Jackson together.” The artist would have made it tell that this is Lee and Jackson’s last interview if he could have done it. But he couldn’t, for there wasn’t any way to do it. A good legible label is usually worth, for information, a ton of significant attitude and expression in a historical picture.
Clearly, Twain’s brief stint in Confederate ranks did little for his respect for the Lost Cause. And for that we thank him.
I do enjoy perusing the Confederate Heritage Facebook pages. The topic of black Confederates is a favorite among these folks. Many of the images and other references are new to me, but more importantly their handling of this “evidence” serves as a reminder of just how incapable some people are in applying even the most rudimentary skills of interpretation. Instead, as can be seen in the comments section, these postings do little more than offer reassurance to the true believers and reinforce a strict us v. them mentality.
Frederick Chapman’s (1818-1891) painting, “The Battle of Chancellorsville” (1865) is not an easy image to come by on the Internet. Information about the artist is just as difficult to nail down. Chapman is a relatively obscure artist. He served as the first president of the Brooklyn Art Association and was best known for his work with stained glass. His best known paintings include “Raising the Liberty Pole” and “Perils of Our Forefathers.” I would love to know a bit more about why he chose to paint this particular scene. Did Chapman ever visit this battlefield?
The scene depicted here takes place along that famous Elys Ford and Plank Road crossroads. The Chancellor House is still intact as the two armies converge in the largest clearing in the Wilderness late in the day on May 1, 1863. The viewer is looking northwest as the final Confederate assault comes into view in the foreground. I assume these are Confederates from Anderson’s and McClaws’s divisions along with Union XII Corps situated south of the Plank Road and Darius Couch’s II Corps on the opposite side.
The dreary sunset provides the perfect metaphor for a spring day that started off with such promise for Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac. We all know what’s coming next. One of the things that I like about this painting is that it does not glorify war. Because Chapman chose to paint a scene quickly being engulfed in darkness, those unfamiliar with the landscape and battle may have to look close to even pick out who is attacking and defending. Defeat and victory almost seem irrelevant here. The few glimmers of sunshine that remain highlight another American crossroads and another home swept up by war.
[Thanks to John Hennessy for sending along a usable pic of Chapman’s painting.]
It’s another one of those slow days here at Civil War Memory, but I didn’t want Robert E. Lee’s birthday to pass without showing due respect. With that in mind I thought we would once again try our hands at giving this print a caption. This is a truly bizarre print. I assume that in addition to Lee and Longstreet we are looking at John Bell Hood and A.P.Hill. It looks like Hill’s horse is eating blood-stained grass. What’s Lee complaining about? Even Traveller looks upset with Longstreet. I will leave the rest to you.
OK Ken, what do you got for us?
And if you are looking for something to listen to this Saturday evening, here is a nice discussion between Peter Carmichael, Allen Guelzo, and James McPherson.
“The Civil War and American Art” examines how America’s artists represented the impact of the Civil War and its aftermath. The exhibition follows the conflict from palpable unease on the eve of war, to heady optimism that it would be over with a single battle, to a growing realization that this conflict would not end quickly and a deepening awareness of issues surrounding emancipation and the need for reconciliation. Genre and landscape painting captured the transformative impact of the war, not traditional history painting.
The first video is an overview, but the embed used here includes six more videos on individual paintings that follow automatically. Enjoy.