As They Saw Themselves

The man who paints his own likeness in a sense turns inside out the famous line of Robert Burns. He is given the gift to show others how he sees himself. This is a revelation of no small interest or importance. We see the man as he idealizes, romanticizes, or possibly disguises himself. And we see him in the mirror of his times. Every artist is to some extent a prisoner of the fashion, the aesthetics, and the painting idiom of his age.Read more »

A Last Glimpse Of The Steamboats

A Portfolio of Paintings

Americans have always loved steam. We cannot claim the steam engine as our invention, but we did adopt it at once and brought it to the peak of its development. The device took on peculiarly American forms in this country; compare, for instance, the tidy British locomotives with their rangy American counterparts. So too with our steamboats. While they lacked the sharp beauty of the clippers, they made up for it with their powerful, chunky, intricate American grace.Read more »

Fort Griswold

Fifth in a series of painting for

One of the ghastliest incidents of the Revolution took place at Groton, Connecticut, during the last engagement of the war in the north. Seventeen hundred British, Hessian, and Tory troops under the command of Benedict Arnold—now a British general after his defection the year before—set out against New London, on the west side of the Thames River from Groton, to seize a large supply of military stores there.Read more »


Fourth in a series of paintings for AMERICAN HERITAGE

American spirits were at a low ebb as the year 1776 drew to a close. The Hudson River forts were gone, Long Island and New York were taken, and now Washington’s wretched army of three thousand men was in full retreat through New Jersey with Cornwallis’ veteran troops close behind. Moreover, the enlistments of many of the Continental soldiers were due to expire with the old year; after December 31 the army would virtually cease to exist. Morale demanded a victory, and if Washington was ever going to strike, it would have to be soon. Read more »

The Seafaring Tradition

An English artist recaptures on canvas the American ships that once ruled the seas

The Stag Hound (left) was an impressive sight whenever she entered New York Harbor; she was so heavily sparred she could carry nearly eleven thousand yards of canvas. Stag Hound was the design of the eminent shipbuilder Donald McKay, his very first “California Clipper,” the precursor of a style of sailing vessel that earned worldwide renown. The year she set out on her maiden voyage to San Francisco —1851—was a spectacular one for American seafarers.Read more »

Before Urban Renewal

A visit to New York when it was little, not very old, and rather more attractive

New York during the Revolution was, a loyalist wrote, “a most dirty, desolate and wretched place.” And indeed it was. No other American city suffered as much from the war. It had been dug up by Americans for defense, shelled by British warships, ravaged by two severe fires, looted by enemy soldiers, even denuded of its trees for firewood. More than half its citizens had fled when the British began their seven-year occupation in the fall of 1776. Yet, astonishingly, by the turn of the century New York was on the threshold of becoming the largest city in the new Republic.Read more »

Guilford Court House

Third in a series of paintings for AMERICAN HERITAGE BY DON TROIANI

Major General Nathanael Greene, commanding the Continental Army in the south, spent mid-March of 1781 trying to lure Cornwallis and his army into battle on advantageous ground. He had to do it quickly, for the enlistments of many of his soldiers would soon expire. Greene finally deployed his troops on the high ground surrounding Guilford Court House in North Carolina. Cornwallis took the bait and began to move against him with some two thousand men.Read more »

Baltimore, Through A Glass Darkly

The proper Baltimore gentry of the mid-nineteenth century who paid Hans Heinrich Bebie to paint their portraits posed for the staid, rather dour man (or so he seemed) whose own self-portrait appears to the left. The neat and competent if uninspired likenesses that rewarded their patronage gave them little indication that Bebie was anything more than a stolid professional. Many cities had their Bebies until the age of photography. Read more »

Charlie Russell’s Lost West

Charles Marion Russell, born outside St. Louis, in Oak Hill, Missouri, of a locally prominent family in 1864, came west to Montana Territory four days short of his sixteenth birthday. Charlie Russell, the “Cowboy Artist,” died there in Great Falls forty-six years later, in 1926.Read more »

The Kentucky Rifle As Art

The Kentucky rifle, which because of its astonishing accuracy earned. A substantial credit for American victories in both the Revolution and the War of 1812, was unknown by that name until after the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. A highly popular ballad of that year described how ”…Jackson he was wide awake and wasn’ t scared at trifles/ For well he knew what aim we take, with our KENTUCKYRIFLES.” It was true that most of Jackson’s riflemen at New Orleans were from Kentucky; but in fact, most of their rifles had been made in Pennsylvania.Read more »