FRAME | WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. On Monday, the Museums were closed in observance of Presidents Day and today is the birthday of American painter Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860). In honor of these two occasions, we feature Peale’s iconic portrait of George Washington, which is currently on display in Gallery 27 at the de Young.
When you enter the exhibition Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection (on view at the Legion of Honor through October 2), you are immediately transported into the Dutch Golden Age.
Museums, like the artworks they house, are constantly evolving. Expanding collections and audiences, outdated facilities, natural phenomena (like earthquakes), or changing building codes can all contribute to a museum’s decision to shutter its doors for lengthy renovations. One museum’s closure, however, is another's golden opportunity, as in the case of this museum! The de Young has recently benefitted from two important museum renovations in Paris: first, the Musée d’Orsay sent us two major exhibitions during its expansive renovations (Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond and Birth of Impressionism) and now the Musée National Picasso brings us Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris opening this Saturday, June 11.
Attributed to Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900)
Our Banner in the Sky, ca. 1861
Oil on paper mounted on paper board
7 13/16 x 11 13/16 inches
Exactly 150 years ago today on April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began in earnest. At 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries on the shores of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter, the Federal-held fortification that dominated the harbor after commander Major Robert Anderson refused its surrender. The resulting bombardment went on for 34 hours, with Confederate artillerists lobbing over 3,000 rounds of shot and shell in the fort's direction. While the fort's masonry walls were battered and many of its wooden buildings were set alight, there were no fatal casualties on either side during the engagement. Ironically, two Union soldiers were killed when ammunition was accidentally ignited during the 100-gun salute to Fort Sumter's tattered but intact American flag.
It is this flag that is thought to be depicted in the de Young's Our Banner in the Sky, believed to have been created in 1861 by American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. Major Anderson took Fort Sumter's flag with him back to the North, where it became the focal point of numerous patriotic rallies, the first of which took place in New York City's Union Square. With over 100,000 attendees, it was the largest public gathering in the United States to date. The celebrity flag toured countless cities throughout the North, where it raised funds for the war effort by being auctioned off. The winner naturally donated the flag back to the nation to be auctioned off again at the next rally. In April of 1865, Anderson, now a major general, returned to Fort Sumter and raised the flag over its ruins as part of the celebration of the Union's victory.