THE RESEARCH AND PROGRESSION
It was November 19th 1863, only four short months after the end of the battle at Gettysburg. While the Civil War raged on, President Abraham Lincoln visited the battlefield for the dedication of a new national cemetery. 40,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded during three days of savage fighting. Both the outcome of the battle and this national consecration marked an important change of course in a horrible war.
The hot, mid-afternoon sun added humidity to a muggy day, with scattered storm clouds in the area. The exact location of the stage has never been precisely known, only a general proximity can be assumed. Several plaques were placed in an attempt to define it. A panoramic photograph from long range with an arrow pointing to the stage location is the best and only clue to its placement. The direction of the afternoon sunlight gave me the angle. Many thousands had gathered around it to honor the dedication, the final outcome of the war in serious doubt. A bloody battle at this solemn location Had left the populace in a state of despair.
Lincoln stood before them, his notes on a single sheet of paper, his right hand resting on the family bible. He stood quietly and spoke profoundly for two short minutes, then turned and walked back to his chair. No time for the photographers to set up their equipment. It was a very unusual speech, almost archaic in cadence. A very different kind of speech than was expected, a shock to everyone. With two hundred dignitaries on stage and thousands surrounding it, the applause from a stunned audience was slow to begin. However, despite the brevity, it was Lincoln’s empathy and leadership that held the country together. That unusual and heartfelt, two minute speech along with his inspired leadership led the Union to ultimate victory. For a hundred and fifty years, it’s been recognized as one of the most iconic and important speeches in America’s history, a clarion call to the nation that soon became the turning point in the war. The final painting is entitled “The Turning Point” and is installed in the entrance to the main lobby of the Army War College barracks at Carlyle, Pennsylvania.
The college anxiously wanted to honor the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address bt recreating it. They searched the world to find the proper artist, one with enough talent and experience to do the posthumous painting without any photographic reference. All the world’s civil war artists made presentations, eagerly seeking this rare opportunity. As many of you know, I’ve spent a lifetime in that effort. I determined very early in life that a posthumous portrait could return a priceless gift to family and friend of the deceased. Two of my cousins who I knew well, were killed in the Canadians Dieppe raid of WW11. My mother acquired photos of them and suggested I make portrait drawings as a gift to the family. I was overwhelmed to see the tears of joy and my personal pride soared. It became my mission to do as many as possible of our history’s heroes and currently deceased, for the families who loved them.. Fortunately, my reputation has grown with video productions, “Painting the Posthumous Portrait” & “A legend in Bronze”. on my site at; http://www.richardmiller.com/merchandise. By a vote of the class of four hundred of the world’s selected heroes, I had the honor of being chosen for this unique task. I’m completely honored by it!
It’s impossible to list all the names of the government bureaucrats, State Governors and dignitaries, foremost on stage, who and what they are. For those of you that are portrait artists and were ever faced with a posthumous commission, you would certainly realize my condition of near panic. It normally takes no more than two – three weeks to produce a painted portrait. But in this case, seven months was involved in countless drawings and correspondence, passing between the COL. and myself, all of it checked and rechecked for accuracy. For your edification, please go to my Facebook site at: http://facebook.com/rrmillerart – photos – albums – Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. There you will find 30+ images, from first sketch to finish with considerable, complete information, identifying a list and position of twenty of the Union’s finest.A contract and search instructions began the adventure. My liaison with the Army War College was COL. Richard J. Hornstein, staff. With other members of staff assisting, he contacted ancestors and other information on the principles, the Evergreen Gatehouse and the cemetery itself. Archival research, much of it by COL. Hornstein, uncovered articles of approximately twenty on the most elite and how they were positioned in their proper place in the first several rows, described in period accounts. It was my responsibility to research each for images. Thanks to the modern, extensive search engines on the Internet, it was possible to se something of what they looked like and how they dressed. But they could never be sitting in those stiff posed positions, “ducks in a row”. No, it was necessary they appear as they would have been at that moment, casually integrating socially, chatting, gesturing. A considerable and yet somehow accurate imagination was vital. Angles were never right and studio lighting was always contrived. It was a nightmare, most of the photographs were pixilated and terribly retouched by newspaper artists. The sketches were frankly pathetic, one showed Lincoln, by proportion, no more than five feet tall, flailing his arms about like a maniacal dwarf.
One important principle we couldn’t find was COL. W. Yates Selleck, parade marshal, standing far left. From his right are; Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s personal body guard and event MC. behind Lamon, Chaplin Thomas Stockton; Edward Everett; William Sewart, Secretary of State; Abraham Lincoln, 16th President; Andrew G. Curtin, Gov. PA; standing at the back of the podium is Clarissa Bougher; Edward Stanton, Secretary of War; Horatio Seymour, Gov, NY; Major General Abner Doubleday; Civil War Commander; Charlot Wise, Everett’s daughter and David Tod, Gov. OH. Lincoln stands beside a table, at the front of the podium, blocking a view of his empty chair with stove-pipe hat left on the seat.
On the 150th anniversary of this vent, November 19th, 2013, a high quality coffee table book was published. “United States Army War College – Class Gift History – 1956 – 2013”. A four page finale illustrated, with images and personal text, “Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. (See sites).The graduating class consisted of world renowned major Generals and important polititions from the USA, Europe and Asia, including special forces and military elite from the world over, discovering what it’s all about. Each year a new class is invited, who wish to know, not how to make war but also how to avoid it. Whatever, it must be done with proper methods and dignity with consideration for all.The class was amazed by the character and accuracy of the depiction. Even the weather and hour is correct for the time of day with a few threatening clouds in the distance. blooming with brilliant sunlight that blazes a halo around Lincoln’s head. There is nothing in the composition at variance with historic fact, written sources or near contemporary images’
There were 650 Offset Lithography Ltd. Ed. Prints produced in entirety. 450 were immediately sold to the class and staff. custom matted and framed to order at the barracks gift shop and shipped to the class recipients around the world. The final 200 were given to me, including 25 S&N APs and 175 reg. S&N at the price of $295.00 for APs and $195.00 for the regular S&N. I spent most of that day signing a personal dedication on as many as possible. My 200 are stored at my studio. The secondary market will be quite popular with Civil War buffs, because they are so unique to this nation’s history. For information on the edition, you may go to my sites at; http://www.richardmiller.com/merchandise and http://facebook.com/rrmillerart. Or call me at; 1(865) 207-4971.