Tuesday, April 12, 2011


oil on stretched canvas


I paid my first visit to the battlefield at Gettysburg this past Thursday. I had passed by it many times on my way to visit my cousin who lived nearby. I went there to paint with my fellow plein air painters, but I did not get much work done. Armed with my camera, I was just like the many tourists there that morning, snapping one photo after the other.

It was a cloudy, chilly morning, which lent itself well to the somber setting. Many have told me what a beautiful , serene landscape it is--how spiritual and peaceful it is, worthy of great reverence. I felt all of these things and yet I also felt profound sadness. The Civil War has always been, to me, the saddest of wars. Six hundred thousand Americans dead in battle, from poorly treated wounds or from disease. Americans fighting Americans and still the Civil War continues in today's politics and in the reenactments of the violence of the North against the South.

I finally settled on the Copse of Trees to paint, learning about its significance later. They are aged, but still standing, protected and revered as living witnesses of the violence that took place there. My depiction of the trees was determined upon learning of the fierce and bloody hand to hand combat that took place around them in July, 1863. Also my son, who was watching me begin the painting, commented that he had read of the great amount blood spilled there . My canvas had a red underpainting, which had bled through. I then decided not to surround the old trees in a peaceful , quiet setting but, to show them as writhing, twisting and agitated and to depict the violence by using more red in the sky and ground. I felt this rendering more closely expressed my feelings about the Civil War and all wars.

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