Friday, October 21, 2011

Museum Visit: New York Historical Society

Question: Can a painting be like a newspaper?
Answer: Sure, when it reports the news of the day.

According to the New York Times, in 1861, paintings often reported the news. This painting told the story of the soldiers of the Irish Regiment returning to New York from fighting in the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. It is called “Return of the 69th Regiment, N.Y.S.M,  From the Seat of War.” It was painted by artist Louis Lang. You can see New York Bay from Bowling Green. A happy crowd welcomes the soldiers, flower sellers, fruit vendors, dignitaries, newsboys, happy families. The newsboy is selling pictures of Colonel Michael Corcoran, who led the Regiment. The man on the horse is Thomas Francis Meagher, who became a captain in the Regiment.

The painting is huge: 11 feet wide by 7 feet tall. With the frame, it weighs 700 pounds. (It is the largest and heaviest“ newspaper” you’ll ever see.) The New York Historical Society decided to restore the painting in 2006. They found it in storage, in pieces. Happily, all the pieces were there. The Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Massachusetts put the painting back together and restored it. It was like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Louis Lang painted the “Return of the 69th Regiment, N.Y.S.M From the Seat of War,” to tell an exciting “news story.” Now, it is American history. 

You will find the painting at the newly renovated New York Historical Society, hanging in the exhibition “Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy,” on the fourth floor. 


Choose a story from today's news and paint a picture to tell the story. 

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