Civil War and American Art: Soldiers in Camp

Last week I toured the Civil War and American Art exhibition currently on display at the American Art Museum. I’m not imbued with a deep understanding of the arts such as these. But I found the exhibition both entertaining and insightful. A couple of the paintings captured a bit more of my attention. Both depicted soldiers in camp.

Consider The 59th Virginia Infantry-Wise’s Brigade by Conrad Wise Chapman.

From the other side of the Civil War, there is Camp of the 7th Regiment Near Frederick Maryland by Sanford Robinson Gifford.


Both artists captured disorderly camps, with a leisurely air. Indeed, now we know both Johnnie Reb and Billy Yank hung out their clothes to dry in the same manner.

With photographs, we see “what was” and are offered the option to explore and interpret that subject under that assumption. But with paintings, we have the artist’s impression of “what was” in so much that he creates every element place in front of us on the canvas.

That said, what similarities and differences are captured by Chapman and Gifford? Is it possible to change the uniforms in both these paintings and perhaps switch the titles? Or are their some subtle differences that makes one a “southern” and the other a “northern” camp?