Friday, June 10, 2011

Gettysburg "Fish Hook" Drawings

An example of a print of John Bachelder's Map of Gettysburg. The Library of Congress, describes the map as: “Colored bird’s-eye view showing the topography of the battlefield by the perspective of the drawing, shading and coloring. Drainage, vegetation, roads and streets, railroads, bridges, houses and names of residents, fences, points of interest on the battlefield, including designations of places where officers were killed or wounded, are indicated. ….The locations of the corps, divisions, brigades, etc. of both armies, with the names of commanding officers, are given in detail. Badge symbols are used to identify the Federal corps.”
My unfinished copy of the Bachelder map from 2010. Oil on canvas 53"x36". This approach led to a dead end or did it.
I’ve been working on creating a representation of the Gettysburg battlefield for quite a while. It’s a massive on going project, with so many directions to explore. This particular series has a starting point with the wonderful map by created by John B. Bachhelder in 1864. I have always enjoyed “bird-eye” views of landscapes and battles. This was a common way to depict landscape popular in the 19th century. I am hopping that a similar approach might be interesting to work on.  However, I was missing a framework on which to base my interpretation on. I came up with working with the famous “Fish Hook” element that the Union line held for most of the battle.
From this concept I came up with two basic compositions. One looking east from the view of the center of the Confederate Army facing the Union army. The other view I like is looking south with Culp’s Hill in the foreground. This view gives an enhanced sense of perspective and space.Once again I’m working on my favorite paper shopping bags. They are cheap and relatively durable. I am always looking for things that are in my environment that I can use for creating artwork. Re purposing these bags fit my needs for cheap paper quit nicely. More importantly I can create more freely and take more chances with this work, knowing that I have a large stack of paper on hand.
The drawings are created with charcoal, black sumi ink, black tempera paint, and white latex house paint. I also try and work with the brown paper color, letting it come through the various layers. This time with some of the pictures, I mixed some Fullers Earth with some molding paste. As the stuff dried it cracked and raised away from the surface. However it remained hard and pretty well stuck to the paper. You can see this effect on some of the detail images that I included. This painting technique is far from being archival, but that is not my concern at the current time.
View of the hook looking east. Culp's Hill on the Left and the Roundtops to the Right. Mixed media on brown paper shopping bag. 34"x17"

Detail of the above image
A simple painted jester of the line
Thicker articulation of the painted surface
Adding locations and landmark, sculpting the terrain.
Detail of the above image

View looking South. Culp's hill in the foreground.

Reworking an earlier composition.

You can see how I went through similar process with both compositions. Culp's Hill view with locations marked.

(Note- This artwork was all completed before the History Channels TV show “Gettysburg”. That show made repeated references to the "Fish Hook" element of the battle. I don't want to give the impression that this TV program inspired these pictures in anyway, shape, or form.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Glover's Rock- Three Images from Williiam Abbatt's Book.

Glover's Rock 1901 and 2011. View looking towards the West.

"At Glover's Rock the unnamed Captain and his forty men fired the first shots as they faced the party of advancing invaders, of about the same strength. Having thus put his three regiments in ambush, Glover rode to the front and ordered the advance guard to push forward-which they did, receiving the enemy's fire without a loss, thought only fifty yards distant. Their return fire was better aimed, and brought down four opponents. At short range five rounds are exchanged. Two of the Massachusetts men lie dead now, and several are wounded. The British are considerably re-enforced, and to remain longer against such odds, and exposed to what then and for a year afterward the patriots were unable to resist- a bayonet charge- would be madness. The order is given to fall back. Which was masterly well done."
The following excerpt is taken from Abbatt’s book page 13-14. I believe it was culled from a letter that John Glover wrote soon after the battle, and is basically our only transcript that details the battle.

Weather or not the opening action actually started near this rock or not, is a matter of historical debate and falls outside of scope of these blog posts. My interest has been in this series of fascinating photographs from William Abbatt's 1901 self-published book "The battle of Pell's Point (or Pelham) October 18,1776". This is the last batch of "before/after" images that I am presenting. (See previous blog entries for the other nine images). In this post I am including three images together because they were taken in close proximity to one another. All images are along what today is called Orchard Beach Road. From my visits to the Rock it appears that Abbatt’s photographs of Glover’s Rock and the view to the East were taken from almost the same spot. The photographer spinning 180 degrees, the camera facing East toward what today is Orchard Beach, then back to Glover's Rock in the West. The third photograph seems to be taken a little further up Orchard Beach Shore Road. In the direction of the intersection with Split Rock Road/Shore Road.

Today there is a small plaque attached to the rock commemorating the battle. Abbatt points out that numerous cannon balls have been found near here from the English cannonade that supported the landing party. The actual landing location of the English troops has been said to have occurred either at what today is called Rodman’s Neck or near where the Pelham Bridge/ Shore Road is located. Clearly the Blaskowitz map (See below) depicts troops landing at the Pelham Bridge location. (See this earlier blog post for some color pin-hole shots I have taken of that near-by area

A detail from the Charles Blaskowitz 1776 map. This map is widely considered to be the most accurate contemporary representation of the battle. I have marked out the important sites for this blog entry. For more detailed information about Charles Blaskowitz please see Blake Bell's fantastic web site on the history of Pelham. With out it I doubt that I would not have found much information about these events. Thank you Mr.Bell.
Although the action at Pell’s Point ranks as a minor skirmish, it did have some historical importance at the time. John Glover and the Marblehead patriots delayed Howe's advance into Westchester County. Enabling General Washington to evacuate troops from upper Manhattan and move them north, thus setting the stage for the Battle of White Planes. Once again even though losing all these engagements around New York, General Washington was able to keep his army intact, to retreat, and fight another day. The British forces were denied a conclusive victory and they failed to crush the fledgling rebellion. Although there are some flaws in Abbatt's account of the battle, the book makes for an intriguing read. It is available via Google books as a free download or, original copies come up for auction form time to time. The main branch of the New York Public library has two original specimens that I have examined.

This project has been a interesting creative exercise for me. Discovering William Abbatt's remarkable self published book, gave me a starting point for exploring this battle and the environment it took place in. I found the photographs most riveting and a window back in time. Although the terrain has changed considerably since 1776 it is still possible to get some insight as to the role the terrain played. Using Abbatt’s photographs from 1900 to compare with modern views has been helpful in trying to bridge the span of time. I hope that my "before and after" images have contributed to the historical record in some small way.
Glover's Rock looking West along Shore Road. Perhaps the original photo was taken further on near the bend in the road. The 1901 image is on the left and the 2011 image is on the right.

This image is a 180 degree view from the image of Glover's Rock. The 1901 image is on the left and the 2011 image is on the right.
Holga pin hole looking east toward Orchard Beach

Holga pin hole looking west toward Split Rock Golf cource.

Glover's Rock from the same angle as the Abbatt photo, but I'm a little to far way. Holga Pinhole virtical.

Glover's Rock from the front. Holga pinhole.