Art is a friend of us students of the war. The biggest reason for this is that it helps us visualize what happened. Some artists drew during the war itself, and later turned their sketches into paintings. Folks like Alfred Waud, his brother, William, Winslow Homer, Edwin Forbes, and Conrad Wise Chapman created images that are highly detailed and also reliable, because they drew what they saw.
Modern artists tend to do a great deal of research. Don Troiani, especially, is known for his detailed research. Mort Künstler, also, does a great deal of research to ensure his art reflects as best as he can the exact details of the historical events he depicts. Dale Gallon is also known for his meticulous research. Another modern artist who specializes in realistic portrayals of historical events is John Paul Strain. Most art critics, though, discount these works as art, saying they have little artistic value to them. Of course, they do have some educational value for us.
If you’re interested in high quality artwork that affords pleasure as art, I highly recommend Wendy Allen’s work. If I had the money and a spot to hang it, I would buy one myself. Wendy primarily uses Lincoln as her subject, but also has some other Civil War-related work such as sights that can be seen around Gettysburg. Wendy’s gallery is on Baltimore Street, between the Farnsworth House and the Shriver House.
In the meantime, besides books about the artists, there are other places to find the artwork. Calendars are good places to start. Mort Künstler publishes a Legends in Gray and other Civil War calendars each year. The Library of Congress also publishes a calendar each year.
Who’s your favorite Civil War artist?