Important A. R. Waud Civil War oil found in antique shop
In the Morning After the Battle, oil/canvas, inscribed and signed lower edge SOLD
A. R. Waud with sketchbook in hand
In 2013 I first viewed this rare and large oil on canvas scene by the leading Civil War "special artist" Alfred Rudolph Waud (1828-1891), who for most of the war covered the Army of the Potomac for Harper's Weekly Magazine. Familiar with American illustration and knowing that Waud, along with Theodore Davis, were the foremost Civil War illustrators, I contacted both the Brandywine River Museum and the Delaware Art Museum to suggest that they consider buying this painting, which represents three generals: Grant, McClellan, and Halleck. Waud was not represented in their extensive American illustration collections and it was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Neither museum, inexplicably, was interested. Waud worked primarily on paper since he moved with the troops and covered battles, he typically used pencil and ink, or sometimes watercolor, but very few oils are known and none of this size had come through auction in 30 years. The largest collection of his illustrations, more than a thousand, are held by the Library of Congress, a gift from J. P. Morgan, with others at Historic New Orleans or scattered here and there. None of the known paper illustrations correspond to this painting. By coincidence I became involved in a research project that brought me to Princeton University's Rare Books & Special Collections, where I read letters giving first-hand accounts of battles of the Army of the Potomac. Princeton is fairly close to Lambertville, where the painting was located--three years later I was more willing to undertake the expense and risk of buying a painting in the five figures, particularly when I knew how rare it was. I phoned the dealer and miraculously the painting was still there and I bought it. I spent considerable time trying to research the painting, thinking that due to its large size and impressive frame, it must have been exhibited and/or published somewhere. Despite my finely-honed research abilities, I was unable to determine what the original purpose had been for the painting. It had not been exhibited at the prestigious annual juried shows organized by the National Academy of Design, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Boston Athenaeum, or at the various Sanitary Fair art exhibitions held in 1864 in several U.S. cities to raise money for the Union war effort. While it may have been published as an illustrations in a book or magazine, it did not appear in Harpers Weekly nor in any of the leading Civil War books I consulted. Of course there are hundreds of books on the topic, so my search was not conclusive. I did discover serendipitously from a Waud descendant living in the next town over that Waud often placed himself into his own paintings and that the red-haired dead solder in the left foreground with a letter and picture spilling from his pocket, was a self-portrait, which made the painting even more important and valuable, too. After owning the painting for a bit, I consigned it to a leading dealer in Philadelphia, and it was sold advantageously to an unnamed museum.