Arts

Civil War references hide in plain sight in American pre-Raphaelite art

Thomas Charles Farrer, Mount Tom (1865)

At first blush, Thomas Charles Farrers Mount Tom looks like any number of 19th-century canvases: mountains, trees, and water dwarf a tiny figure, this one a fisherman. But all is not pastoral in this painting, which Farrer completed in 1865, the year the Civil War ended. The fishermans kepi cap—part of a Union soldiers uniform—identifies him as a veteran; this could even be a self-portrait of the artist, who served in the Union army.

“A reference to the recently concluded Civil War introduces a poignant note into an otherwise-tranquil scene,” said Linda Ferber, the director emerita and senior art historian at the New-York Historical Society, at a press preview of the National Gallery of Arts exhibition The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists (until July 21), which she curated.

The picture, a promised gift to the National Gallery, is one of several in the show to refer to the Civil War, if viewers know where to look for clues.

Charles Herbert Moore, Hudson River, Above Catskill (1865)
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth

Also in 1865, Charles Herbert Moore completed Hudson River, Above Catskill. The works foreground, dominated by rocks and trees—also contains what Ferber called a “marvelously-strange foreground of motley objects”: a tired-looking boat, a red apple, and a horse skull and bones. In the bottom left corner, Moore signed and dated the work, but another inscription, “April”, is hidden from sight. This, Ferber said, may reference Abraham Lincolns assassination on 14 April 1865. (The show opens 154 years, to the date, of the shooting.)

Another painting, William Trost Richards A Neglected Corner of the Wheatfield (1865), from a private collection, might offer a more political view of the Civil War era. With its “biblical cadence” in the title, the picture appears to depict more than just unruly plants growing over a fence. “Are they simply picturesque wildflowers and vines?” Ferber said. “Or are they invasive weeds that pose a threat to the cultivated crop ready for harvest, a threat to the harmonious socialRead More – Source

Related Posts