Near the end of the Civil War, veteran and artist George Leo Frankenstein undertook the ambitious project to chronicle the conflict's battlefields in paint, resulting in at least 134 oil sketches of various locations. These works remain largely unknown, and most are housed in archives throughout the National Park Service. This talk explores both the potential impetus behind Frankenstein's project, including its possible connections to similar photographic projects, and why it did not meet its intended result of widespread circulation. It also examines the forces behind canon formation, asking why and how some objects become collectively known and others do not, considering the role of visual culture in the fields of art history, public history, and museology.
Sarah Kate Gillespie teaches courses on nineteenth-century visual culture and museum studies at Gettysburg College. She was previously Curator of American Art at the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, and Assistant Professor of Art History at York College, CUNY. She is the author of Vernacular Modernism: The Photography of Doris Ulmann (2018, Georgia Museum of Art), and The Early American Daguerreotype: Cross-Currents in Art and Technology (2016, Lemelson Center/MIT Press). Her most recent essay "Aesthetic Versus the 'Mere Historic'": Civil War and Frontier Photography at MoMA" was published in the volume Modern in the Making: MoMA and the Modern Experiment (2020, Bloomsbury Press).
Presented on August 14, 2021.