Dress Parade

A PORTFOLIO OF AMERICAN FIGHTING MEN

T he American provincials looked ridiculous. They had no military bearing. Their formations were ragged, and they argued with their officers. Sometimes they were so clumsy they made the regulars of the British army highly nervous—and with good cause. Like the time in 1758 when some of the Massachusetts men with General James Abercromby’s army in the campaign against Fort Ticonderoga were given permission to clear the charges from their muzzle-loading muskets by firing them off.Read more »

Picnics Long Ago

If it rained, the painters failed to record it

Food tastes better outdoors, and it always has. Nowadays this rule, which every child learns early in life, can be seen in operation at tailgate parties at football games or wherever spectator sports are in season. You can see it under more elegant circumstances throughout American history, beginning with the Pilgrims’ first alfresco party for the Indians. It reached some sort of apogee in the nineteenth century, in the period brought back to us so hauntingly in the writings of Washington Irving and on the canvases of the painters of the Hudson River school. Read more »

Spoon River Revisited

An artist recalls his Midwestern home town and the poet who made it famous

I always felt at home in Edgar Lee Master᾿s quarters in the Chelsea Hotel. It was all so much like a Petersburg, Illinois, law office that I might have been back in Papa Smoot’s office overlooking the courthouse square. Edgar Lee, plain and short and stocky, sat in a straight chair near a big desk. there was the same smell of books and tobacco. The same southern light filtered through the braches of the ailanthus trees, and the court behind the Chelsea was almost as quiet as the empty Petersburg square with its big elms.Read more »

John Faulkner’s Vanishing South

John Faulkner, like his more famous brother William, was a novelist, but he was also a painter. During the decade before his death in 1963 he painted a series of oils and water colors that he called “Scenes of the Vanishing South,” portraying his home town of Oxford, and Lafayette County, Mississippi. Some were painted from his memory of his boyhood, and others from the daily life of Beat Two, the hilly northeast sector of the county that is the scene also of most of his fiction.Read more »

Young America

“Life Style” in the Nineteenth Century

“Painting is dead!” cried a French artist when he saw his first photograph about 1840. But painting was not dead at all: it survived the arrival of photography with surprising vigor. And if there was one branch of art that held its own more steadily than others, it was genre painting, the kind of thing to which this portfolio is fondly devoted. Read more »

Art Out Of The Attic

Along with their rusty bedsprings, broken chairs, and other relics, the attics, closets, basements, and barns in this country are stuffed with pictorial surprises. Some of them are, very occasionally, works of real art, but most are the humble efforts of local or itinerant painters of the past who preserved on canvas the faces of families and friends or the simple events of daily life. Usually it is in old houses that these treasures of a younger America are found, and for years they have been neglected by scholars and left to gather dust, their stories hidden as well.Read more »

Uncle Tom: That Enduring Old Image…

True classics never die. But sometimes second-rate works also acquire unique longevity. Take Uncle Tom’s Cabin , born in 1852. Its best-selling appeal lay in its stereotypes, such as little Eva’s childish purity, Tom’s stalwart virtue, and Simon Legree’s unalloyed villainy. These oversimplified the issues of race and slavery but gave the novel an emotional power that survived transplantation to the stage, where it remained a smash hit until almost yesterday. [See “Uncle Tom, the Theater and Mrs.Read more »

Centennial City

The simple, affectionate water colors of an unassuming Scots immigrant, David J. Kennedy, bring back the Philadelphia of 1876 and our first great world’s fair

President Ulysses S. Grant opened the United States Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia on May 10, 1876. When the closing ceremonies were held on November i o, in a cold drenching rain, 9,910,966 people (paid and free) had passed through the entrance gates. This was more than fourteen times the population of Philadelphia, the second largest city of the United States, and more than had attended any of the great world’s fairs held in the preceding quarter century.Read more »

The Boy Artist Of Red River

Between the ages of fifteen and twenty, young Peter Rindisbacher captured on canvas the lives of Indians and white pioneers on the Manitoba—Minnesota frontier

On August 12, 1834, a twenty-eight-year-old Swiss-born youth named Peter Rindisbacher, who was just beginning to attract international attention with his colorful and realistic drawings of Indian life along the mid-western United States and central Canadian frontiers, died in St. Louis. In a brief obituary the Missouri Republican noted his passing: “Mr. Rindisbacher had talents which gave every assurance of future celebrity. … He possessed a keen sensibility and the most delicate perception of the beautiful.” Read more »

Maxfield Parrish

Guess who’s having a revival—

I am one of those people who grew up, I am now aware, in a household that was completely bourgeois. I didn’t know it as a child, of course, but the chief sign of my family’s middle-class status was not the fact that my parents subscribed to the Saturday Evening Post , or drove a green Nash with spoke wheels, or played bridge several evenings a week.Read more »