Feature Articles

September 2013

Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, Features Civil War Photographs

The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, will present Photography and the American Civil War, on view from Sept. 27 through Jan. 5, 2014.

Organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this landmark exhibition brings together more than 200 of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War. Through examples drawn from The Metropolitan’s celebrated holdings, complemented by important loans from public and private collections, the exhibition will examine the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war. The “War between the States” was the great test of the young Republic’s commitment to its founding precepts; it was also a watershed in photographic history. The camera recorded from beginning to end the heartbreaking narrative of the epic four -year war (1861–1865) in which 750,000 lives were lost.

Photography and the American Civil War features both familiar and rarely seen images that include haunting battlefield landscapes strewn with bodies, studio portraits of armed Confederate and Union soldiers preparing to meet their destiny, rare multi-panel panoramas of Gettysburg and Richmond, and languorous camp scenes showing exhausted troops in repose. Also included are diagnostic medical studies of wounded soldiers who survived the war’s last bloody battles and portraits of both Abraham Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

“We are thrilled to bring this exhibition to Charleston, the very city where the Civil War began,” says Curator of Exhibitions Pam Wall. “These photographs tell a powerful story of our nation’s greatest struggle, and the fascinating intersection between history and photography during this time period.”

At the start of the Civil War, the nation’s photography galleries were overflowing with a variety of photographs of all kinds and sizes, many examples of which will be featured in the exhibition: portraits made on thin sheets of copper (daguerreotypes), glass (ambrotypes), or iron (tintypes), and larger, “painting-sized” likenesses on paper, often embellished with India ink, watercolor, and oils. The exhibition features groundbreaking works by Mathew B. Brady, George N. Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan, among many others. One such example is Ruins in Charleston, South Carolina by George N. Barnard from 1865. This image depicting a scene of the devastated buildings along King Street is a particularly important photograph highlighting the artistic sensibilities of Barnard’s documentary work. The images of the loss, death, and destruction of the South contain moral lessons about war, heroism, and slavery.

Approximately 1,000 photographers worked separately and in teams to produce hundreds of thousands of photographs - portraits and views - that were actively collected during the period (and over the past century and a half) by Americans of all ages and social classes. In a direct expression of the nation’s changing vision of itself, the camera documented the war and also mediated it by memorializing the events of the battlefield as well as the consequent toll on the home front.

The Gibbes will offer a number of related programs and special events including:

Thursday, Sept. 26, at 6pm - Member Preview Party.

Friday, Sept. 27, at noon - Lunchtime lecture with Jeff Rosenheim, Curator in Charge, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, $20 Members, $30 Non-Members (box lunch included). For details and to purchase tickets please visit (www.gibbesmuseum.org/events) or call 843/722-2706 ext. 21.

Saturday, Sept. 28 - Smithsonian Free Admission Day. Get your free ticket at this link (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/).

Sunday, Oct. 13 - Free Admission Day.

Thursdays, Oct. 17, Nov. 14, and Dec. 12, at 2:30pm - Guided tour of Photography and the American Civil War led by notable experts Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell, attorney and author Robert Rosen, and Bernard E. Powers, professor of history, College of Charleston. Tours start at 2:30pm. Free with museum admission.

Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 6pm - Art of Healing. A conversation and reception with USAF Surgeon Dr. Darrin Clouse and historian Dr. Walter Edgar, moderated by Dr. Jeb Hallett, Roper St. Francis surgeon, around the exhibition.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue written by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in Charge, Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and distributed by Yale University Press, the book will be available in the Museum Store ($50, hardcover). The catalogue is made possible by the Roswell L. Gilpatric Publications Fund.

This exhibition is sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Susan and Robert Rosen, Gibbes, etc., Women’s Council, Charleston Magazine, and STITCH, A Design Co.

Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905. Located in Charleston’s historic district, the Gibbes houses a premier collection of over 10,000 works, principally American with a Charleston or Southern connection, and presents special exhibitions throughout the year. In addition, the museum offers an extensive complement of public programming and educational outreach initiatives that serve the community by stimulating creative expression and improving the region’s superb quality of life. Visit highlights of the Gibbes collection on Google Art Project at (www.googleartproject.com).

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 843/722-2706 or visit (www.gibbesmuseum.org).

[ | September 2013 | Feature Articles | Download Carolina Arts' Current Issue | Carolina Arts Unleashed | Home | ]







Carolina Arts is published monthly by Shoestring Publishing Company, a subsidiary of PSMG, Inc. Copyright© 1987-2013 by PSMG, Inc. which published Charleston Arts from July 1987 - December 1994 and South Carolina Arts from January 1995 - December 1996. It also published Carolina Arts Online, Copyright© 1998 - 2013 by PSMG, Inc. All rights reserved by PSMG, Inc. or by the authors of articles. Reproduction or use without written permission is strictly prohibited.