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( 1828-1891 )

Alfred R. Waud

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In the days before photo-journalism, it was the job of the artist-correspondent—or special artist, as he was sometimes called—to make a visual record of current events. The War Between the States created an unprecedented demand for the skills of such talents. Young men trained in the craft of engraving or drafting were employed in great numbers by the publishers of Harper's, Leslie's, the New York Illustrated News, and London Illustrated News. Perhaps the single special artist who left to posterity more sketches of the conflict than any other was the Englishman Alfred Waud, who covered the Army of the Potomac for Harper's Weekly for most of the duration of the war. An astounding number of 2300 field sketches by Waud are housed in the Library of Congress, the gift to the nation of J. Pierpont Morgan.

Born in London in 1828, Waud studied scene painting at the Schools of Design at Somerset House and the Royal Academy. When he joined the New York Illustrated News in 1861, he was sent to Washington to cover war-related developments. He worked for them for less than a year, at which time he accepted a position to make drawings of hostilities for Harper's Weekly.

Picket in Front of Fort Mahone, Petersburg, Virginia is rare for Waud's oeuvre, for he was primarily a sketch artist and seldom executed oil paintings in the studio after his sketches. He probably made the sketches during the summer of 1864 when the Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George G. Meade, began its protracted attempt to take Petersburg, Virginia. The painting represents a union soldier on picket duty, protected from the hot Southern sun by a canvas and wood shebang. In the background is Confederate-held Fort Mahone, which guarded the Jerusalem plank road, one of the most important arteries into Petersburg from Jerusalem (now Courtland), Virginia, to the south.

In 1866, Waud traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers on assignment to cover the early efforts at reconstruction. He was in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. He never returned to England to live, dying in Marietta, Georgia, where he had gone in an attempt to improve his failing health.

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This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.


For more information on this artist and work, please contact us.

This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

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