Monday, December 20, 2010

Art of the American Soldier Exhibit Extended Thru March

I received notice this morning that the "Art of the American Soldier" exhibit at Constitution Center in Philadelphia has been extended through March 31.  This exhibit presents paintings and drawings created by American soldiers while serving in theaters of war from the fields of World War I to the present day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The website of the exhibit presents the art on an interactive timeline where you can scroll through the decades, viewing the images and listening to a montage of newscasts and music from the era.

 This image of a WWI machine gunner was produced in 1918 by Captain Harvey Dunn, a combat artist assigned to the American Expeditionary Forces in France. 

In 1917, the American military designated "official war artists" who were sent to Europe to record the activities of American Forces there and like many of them, Captain Harvey Dunn was formally trained.  Dunn had studied at the Chicago Art Institute then later under the famed adventure novel illustrator Howard Pyle.

"Unlike the objective camera lens that records the single instant and no more, the artist not only captures instantaneous action, but can fuse earlier moments of the same scene into a compelling image. Observation, insight, elimination of confusing detail, and focusing on the essential can all be compassed by the artist's eye." - U.S. Navy Combat Art Program

The Navy's Combat Art Program was officially founded in 1941 after  muralist Griffith Baily Coale, convinced the Navy's top brass of the importance of having competent artists on the battlefields to record the history that was taking place. Not to be outdone, the Army established a War Art Unit in late 1942.  The War Art Advisory Committee selected 23 active duty military and 19 civilian artists to work in the program.

But in May 1943 Congress withdrew funding from the program and the War Art Unit was inactivated. 

The effort to create a visual record of the American military experience in World War II was then taken up by the private sector in two different programs, one by Life magazine and one by Abbott Laboratories, a large medical supply company. When Life offered to employ civilian artists as was correspondents, the War Department agreed to provide them the same support already being given to print and film correspondents. Seventeen of nineteen civilians artists who had been selected by the War Art Committee joined Life as war correspondents. A deal was struck between, then editor of Life, Daniel Longwell and the Secretary of War for the artists to receive the same treatment as news correspondents.[1] Abbott, in coordination with the Army's Office of the Surgeon General, commissioned twelve artists to record the work of the Army Medical Corps. These two programs resulted in a wide range of work by distinguished artists who had the opportunity to observe the war firsthand." - The United States Army Art Program, Wikipedia

The Navy Combat Art Program was revived with two military artists in the Korean War and in the Vietnam era the program operated with civilian artists in cooperation with the Salmagundi Club. The Navy also began sending artists to cover a broader array of naval activities in addition to combat. Following the merger of the Navy Combat Art Program with the Naval Historical Center, artists have been sent to the Persian Gulf and Desert Shield/Storm. - Naval History and Heritage Command

Since my husband served as a combat engineer during the Vietnam War and has often told me how getting enough sleep was a daily challenge between sweeping roads for mines all day then standing guard half the night, I was particularly drawn to this image entitled "The Waiting Game" by Sp6 Kenneth J. Scowcroft depicting two exhausted members of the 4th Infantry Division near the flight line at the heliport on Dragon Mountain in Plieku, Vietnam .  I think my husband would have titled it "Catching ZZZZsss!" though.

If you're going to be in the Philadelphia area before the end of March, I would urge you to stop by Constitution Center and view these images that capture the sacrifice our young men and women have made over the last 100 years.  If you can't make it in person, I recommend visiting the website and viewing the online gallery.  The art truly depicts the human dimension of war "in a way no photograph or newsreel ever could!"
   Drawing Fire: Vietnam Through the Eyes of a Combat Artist   Portrait of War: The U.S. Army's First Combat Artists and the Doughboys' Experience in WWI    They Drew Fire - Combat Artists World War II   Drawing Fire: A Combat Artist at War : Pacific Europe Korea Indochina Vietnam 
War Diary of a Combat Artist
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Custer Portrait Vases sell for more than $50,000

Today I received a notice from Heritage Auction Galleries about their recent auction of a pair of hand painted porcelain vases with portraits of George Armstrong Custer and his wife Libby.

In July of 1865 Custer and his young bride traveled to New Orleans, where they visited the studio of the highly regarded photographer and portrait artist R. T. Lux. There they were photographed by Lux, and the tintype images he retained were used to paint these remarkably life-like portraits. The vases are of baluster form, measuring 11" in height, and adorned with bouquets of pink roses bound in blue ribbons. Each is dated "July 1865," and signed "R.T. Lux, N.O." Lux's work is highly collectable today, and this magnificent pair must surely be considered among the most desirable examples. Pictured on page 72 of Lawrence Frost's important book, The Custer Album, they are among the most recognizable of Custer artifacts. When Butterfield & Butterfield auctioned a number of important Custer relics on behalf of the family, the vase depicting Custer was featured on the catalog's cover. The pair was sold at Butterfield's in 1995, where they fetched $46,750. The original Lux tintype of Custer, featuring the exact same portrait seen on the painted vase, was auctioned by the Custer family at the same time, but unfortunately not together with the vases. - Heritage Auction Galleries
George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth Bacon Cu...Image via Wikipedia
George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth Bacon Custer
between 1860 and 1865.  Courtesy of the Library of
I found a copy of a portrait of the couple from the Library of Congress for comparison.  Although Libby is wearing a similar dress, George's hair is much shorter than in the vase portrait.  However, the vase portraits' resemblance to the couple's facial details in the photograph is striking.

If you visit the Heritage Auction Gallery website and set up a free account, you can view wonderful enlarged images of these portraits as well as other historical collectibles that are either being offered for sale or have been sold in the past including firearms, military paper ephemera (military manuals, discharge papers, orders, letters, etc), uniforms, flags, cannon, bladed weapons, tintypes, etc.  What a treasure trove of information all freely available if you just set up a free  account!  You can browse online catalogs of both past and upcoming auctions and they publish a beautifully illustrated magazine that may be read online or requested in print at no charge.

Earlier this month, the only U.S. flag not captured or lost during Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn sold at auction for $2.2 million. 

The Culbertson Guidon from the 1876
Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Image
courtesy of Sotheby's
Of the five guidons [flags with a distinctive swallow-tailed shape] carried by Custer's battalion only one was immediately recovered, from beneath the body of a fallen trooper.

According to testimonials from Indians involved in the fight, the trooper, Cpl. John Foley, was attempting to escape on horseback — and had almost succeeded — when he shot himself in the head. All the other flags under Custer's command were believed captured by the victorious Indians.

The recovered flag later became known as the Culbertson Guidon, after the member of the burial party who recovered it, Sgt. Ferdinand Culbertson. Made of silk, it measures 33 inches by 27 inches, and features 34 gold stars. - Matthew Brown, Associated Press
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn   A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - the Last Great Battle of the American West   Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors   Lakota Noon: The Indian Narrative of Custer's Defeat   They Died With Custer: Soldiers' Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn   Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle: The Little Big Horn Re-examined   Custer and the Little Bighorn: The Man, The Mystery, The Myth  My Life on the Plains (Military History)
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Uncle Sam's Khaki Soldiers interesting article by D. L. Adams

My husband collects military vehicles and subscribes to Military Vehicles Magazine.  The last time I renewed his subscription, I did it online and signed up for their newsletter.  I've discovered that it often contains some really fascinating articles about different aspects of military history.

Today's issue had an in-depth article about the development of the khaki uniform, Uncle Sam’s khaki soldiers by D. L. Adams.

Harry Scofield, Battery E, 5th Artillery, is
wearing a woolen blouse with stand-and-fall
collar as specified in 1907 with “U.S.”
collar as specified for wearing during
1904-1910. John Adams-Graf Collection
During the Spanish-American War, several volunteer units were sent for tropical duty wearing lightweight cotton rather than the Army’s standard blue wool uniforms.  Following experiences in the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army formally adopted khaki-colored uniforms.  It would only be a few years until it had all but abandoned the blue wool it had worn for more than a century.

As early as 1898, regulations specified a field service blouse for all commissioned officers and enlisted men to be made of “cotton drilling or khaki, light-brown in color…” This departure from the blue uniform, however, was only for the service uniform. While “on marches, fatigue duty, and ordinary wear,” troops were instructed to wear the blue wool surge, 5-button field blouse with rolled collar.-  Uncle Sam’s khaki soldiers by D. L. Adams.  
 Over the next nine years, the new khaki uniform underwent 10 specification changes including changes in the buttons.

The Army had worn bright brass or silver-colored buttons on its service uniforms from the beginning. This changed in 1902, however, with the adoption of a subdued, dull bronze button. The 1902 pattern General Service button featured the nation’s Great Seal with no rim around the circumference. It was produced in three sizes: Cuff, blouse and overcoat. The two smaller sizes were also produced in gilt for use on the dress uniform. The 1902 button would remain the standard pattern used on all of the Army’s dress and service uniforms until the adoption of a rimmed variant in 1912. Uncle Sam’s khaki soldiers by D. L. Adams.
The article is lavishly illustrated with images of different iterations of these uniforms.  I encourage you to check it out!

An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Uniforms of the 19th Century: An Expert Guide to the American Civil War, the Boer War, the Wars of German and Italian ... Colonial Wars (Illustrated Encyclopaedia of)   Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries: Military Uniforms   Vanished Armies: A Record of Military Uniform Observed And Drawn in Various European Countries During the Years 1907 to 1914 (Shire General)
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Civil War Maps and Charts featured in Charting A More Perfect Union archive

For all of you map and chart fans, a dream come true has been provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the NOAA has launched an online archive of maps and charts entitled "Charting a More Perfect Union: 1861 - 1865".

Alexander Dallas Bache (1806 - 1867), American...Image via Wikipedia
Alexander Dallas Bache (1806 - 1867), American scientist,
U.S. Coast Guard official.
"In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson established the Survey of the Coast to produce the nautical charts necessary for maritime safety, defense, and the establishment of national boundaries. Within years, the United States Coast Survey was the government’s leading scientific agency, charting coastlines and determining land elevations for the nation. In 1861, the agency adjusted quickly to meet the needs of a country at war…" - NOAA  
 In 1861, U.S. Coast Survey supervisor Alexander Dallas Bache published Notes on the Coast of the United States. Thereafter, reports were published each year from 1861 to 1865.  Initially used by the Union army,  the maps, charts, and geographic information were the target of Southern sympathizers as well who sought to give their own army an edge in the military campaigns that raged during this period.

Stained Glass of a Confederate Soldier of the ...Image by mharrsch via Flickr
Stained Glass of a Confederate
Soldier of the American Civil War
at Bardstown Kentucky
This rich collection contains over 20,000 images from the late 1700s to present day.  I found a fascinating sketch   of the Country Occupied by the Federal and Confederate Armies on the 18th and 21st July 1861 marked with little crosses noting "Colonel Thomas Fell", "Mrs. Henry Fell" and "General Bee Fell."  I just put in the search criteria State: Virginia and Year: 1861.

Like the maps of the Lewis and Clark expedition, these priceless documents are another great legacy left to us by our third president, Thomas Jefferson.  If you want to explore some of the Lewis and Clark maps, check out Lewis and Clark: The Maps of Exploration 1507 - 1814, and excellent website compiled by the University of Virgina Library.

Great Maps of the Civil War: Pivotal Battles and Campaigns Featuring 32 Removable Maps (Museum in a Book)   Take Command 2nd Manassas   Revolutionary War Era Maps (2 CD Set)

American Maps and Map Makers of the Revolution (Revolutionary War Bicentennial)
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