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Friday, September 28, 2012

Gardner's Gettysburg - "Harvest of Death" Doctored?

     I've been taking a closer look at "A Harvest of Death". In a previous post I have indicated there are visual clues that lead me to believe the distant tree line in this image has been created in an effort to salvage an otherwise poor photograph. This suggestion has caused a stir amongst those who are looking to solve and/or disprove multiple theories as to its actual location on the battlefield.
Here is the image from Gardner's Sketchbook.

Let's look below at another copy, this time from the
collection of the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University.
What do we see, and what do we not see?

The entire upper third of this most famous of Gettysburg images looks to be 
a contrivance by Gardner to create an artistic and poignant print to sell.
No tree line, and no shadowy figures in the distance. Gardner has begun
to create the illusion in the print we have long accepted as fact. Note the
pencil shading within the left and right horizon line. This pencil shading smooths
 out in the final published prints of this image. Click on it for larger viewing.
(Gift of Arthur, Class of 1956, and Marilyn Penn, Class of 1956, Christopher Elliman, David Elliman, and Andrea Branch, by exchange, and through the Overton Endowment Fund. Photography courtesy of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University.) Link here for collection.

This enlargement shows the beginnings of the smears that would become the "standing"
 figures on the right. Note also the darkening of features on the scattered bodies for contrast.
See below for the end result from the Gardner's Sketchbook Plate # 36.

Notice how in the finished product these silhouettes don't match the luminescence of
 the surrounding figures. They have no three-dimensional qualities when compared to the
 bodies on the ground. They are created from pencil, and India Ink wash. They are a work of art.

Here is another "working copy" so to speak from the Library of Congress.
Note the exact same pencil shading on the ground at left and right, and
a very crudely drawn "rider on a horse". The false tree line is beginning
to take shape as well. I have located what Gardner may have likely referenced
  to create the man on the horse, in an earlier photograph of his own, as seen below.
 A strong resemblance when compared to the finished product.

The probable "model", from an 1862 image by Gardner.

From the Library of Congress, the initial rough sketching that would lead to the finished product below. Retouching and rephotographing would produce the famous photograph we have known.

In this detailed enlargement from another copy of the Sketchbook print, it is easy to see the contrast
 difference, and how the figures are actually out of scale to the "real" bodies. The inking of the shadows is quite apparent here also. For nearly 150 years we have taken this photograph as real in all regards. Now it can be seen to be as fake as the moved body in the "sharpshooter's lair" in Devil's Den. A manipulation of a bad negative to yield a marketable work of art to tug the heart strings.
Click on the picture above and get a better view of the brush strokes that make up the riding figure.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ox Hill - 150 Years Ago Today

     Today marks the Sesquicentennial observance of the final action in the 2nd Manassas Campaign. A small park remains to commemorate the action that left two Union generals dead, and opened the door to Lee's first invasion of the North. Today this field of battle is surrounded by the residential and commercial sprawl of Fairfax County, the area where I grew up. It wasn't until shortly before the developer's machines transformed the ground that I was able to visit the site, around 1987. It sat overgrown in the outskirts of Fairfax City, rarely drawing attention until it became the target of our "modernization". So much has changed in that region from when I was a kid. Between Fairfax and the Manassas Battlefield only small traces remain to mark the vast activity that swept over the land from 1861-1865. Less than one one hundredth of the acreage that comprised the field of battle at Ox Hill remains undisturbed. The Fairfax County government maintains the 4.8 acre park with interpretive signage and two monuments to the commanders in blue who fell in the former farm fields. Here is a link to the official county website:
I recommend for further reading, the current and future work of writer and publisher William B. Styple:
A fanciful depiction of the moment General Phillip Kearny was killed, as painted by Augustus Tholey, and published by John Smith, 804 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1867.
     On October 2, 1915, descendants gathered for the dedication of a monument to General Philip Kearny, killed in action, September 1, 1862. John Watts Kearny, the general's son, stands behind the monument. Great granddaughter Lucy Kearny Hill, stands at right in the front row.
Original photograph courtesy of the Kearny Town Historian, Kearny, NJ

The same view on July 19, 2010
Ox Hill Battlefield Park, Fairfax, VA

Looking south across the battlefield of September 1, 1862.

The mysterious "Kearny Stump", once thought to mark the
 spot the general died, but long since disproved.
Quartz rock placed by Confederate veteran and one time property owner, John Ballard,
to mark where General Isaac Stevens fell during the first Union assault of the day.

The monuments to Generals Stevens and Kearny. The thin band of trees
 beyond masks the development that claimed most of the battlefield.

A view of the Fairfax County park to memorialize the battle
 that ended the Second Manassas Campaign.

Looking southwest across Monument Drive at the battlefield pull off.
At right of center are two Virginia Historical markers, as seen below.

Click the images for enlarged viewing.