From the office of the United States Senate curator , we learn That in 1870, the House Committee on Military Affairs commissioned artist Seth Eastman 17 to paint images of important fortifications in the United States. He completed the works between 1870 & amp; 1875. For many years, the fort paintings hung in the rooms assigned to the House Military Affairs Committee, first in the Capitol & amp; later in the Cannon House Office Building. During the late 1930s, they were returned to the Capitol for public display. Of the 17 paintings, 8 are located in the Senate wing.
West Point, New York by Seth Eastman
During the late 18th century & amp; Through much of the 19th century, army forts were constructed Throughout the United States to defend the nation from a growing variety of threats, both perceived & amp; real. Seventeen of these sites are depicted in a collection painted especially for the US Capitol by Seth Eastman.
Lt Colonel Seth Eastman (1808-1875) 1860s
Born in 1808 in Brunswick, Maine, Eastman found expression For His artistic skills in a military career. After graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point, where officers-in-training were taught basic drawing & amp; drafting techniques, Eastman was posted to forts in Wisconsin & amp; Minnesota before returning to West Point as assistant teacher of drawing. In 1830 Eastman was assigned to duty topography on the western territory and spent a short time at Fort Snelling before returning to West Point to teach.
Fort Defiance, New Mexico (now Arizona) by Seth Eastman
While at Fort Snelling, Eastman married Wakaninajinwin (Stands Sacred), the 15-year-old daughter of Cloud Man, Dakota chief. Eastman left in 1832 for another military assignment soon after the birth of Their baby girl, Winona, and declared His marriage ended When He left. Winona was also known as Mary Nancy Eastman and was the mother of Charles Alexander Eastman, author of Indian Boyhood .
Fort Snelling, Minnesota by Seth Eastman
From 1833 to 1840, Eastman taught drawing at West Point. In 1835, he married His second wife, Mary Henderson, the daughter of a West Point surgeon. In 1841, he returned to Fort Snelling as a military commander and Remained there with Mary and Their 5 children for the next 7 years. During this time Eastman That Began visually recording the everyday way of life of the Dakota and the Ojibwa people.
Fort Delaware, Delaware by Seth Eastman
Eastman established himself as an accomplished landscape painter, & amp; between 1836 & amp; 1840, 17 of His oils were Exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York City. His election as an honorary member of the academy in 1838 Links: His enhanced status as an artist.
Fort Knox, Maine by Seth Eastman
Transferred to posts in Florida, & amp; Texas in the 1840s, Eastman Became interesed in the Native Americans of These regions & amp; Numerous made sketches of the people & amp; Their customs. This experience prepared him for the next five yeas in Washington, DC, where he was assigned to the commissioner of Indian Affairs & amp; illustrated Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's important six-volume Historical & amp; Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, & amp; Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. During this time Eastman anche assisted Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, superintendent of the Capitol extension, in securing the services of several Native Americans to model for the sculptors working on the 1850s Additions to the building.
Fort Mackinac, Michigan by Seth Eastman
In 1867 Eastman returned to the Capitol, this time to paint a series of nine scenes of Native American life for the House Committee on Indian Affairs. Eastman's talent & amp; His special knowledge of the subject Certainly qualified him for the commission, Which Was Obtained for him by the House Ways & amp; Means Committee Chairman Robert C. Schenck of Ohio. Schenck, a former Civil War officer who, like Eastman, was retired for disability During the war, believed Amerian - not European - Should artists recieve the Capitol commissions. In introducing a resolution urging the hiring of Eastman for the project, Schenck remarked: "We have been paying for decorations, some displaying good taste & amp; others of tawdry character, a great deal of money to Italian artists & amp; others, while we have American talent much more competent for the work. Among others... is General Eastman, who... is more of an artist in all that Relates to the Indians, except possibly Catlin & amp; Stanley, than any we have had in this country .... If assigned to this duty General Eastman will draw His full pay as lieutenant colonel, instead of as on the retired list, making a difference of about $ 1.200 or $ 1.500 per year. For at the most $ 1,500 to year we will secure service For which we sono stati paying tens of Thousands of dollars to foreign artists, & amp; we will get better work done. "
Schenck's resolution was approved by the House but tabled by the Senate. Nevertheless, the retired Eastman was Placed - by special order of the War Department - on "active duty" So THAT he could be compensated for creating works of art for the Capitol. He finished the nine paintings in 1869.
Fort Scammel and Fort Gorges, Maine by Seth Eastman
In 1870 House Military Affairs Committee Chairman John A. Logan of Illinois Theproposed That Eastman produces 17 canvases depicting army forts. It is indicative of the post-Civil War America sentiment That Logan Eastman specified That was not to paint battle scenes; indeed, the mood of These forts in September landscapes is serene, even nostalgic to some degree. Never a well man, Eastman was aged & amp; ailing by the time he received the commission, & amp; it is not known if he visited the forts. He Had Been stationed at several of These during his military career, & amp; He trained as a topographical draftsman he probably had plans, elevations, & amp; even photographs of the forts at his disposal. Eastman completed the series between 1870 & amp; 1875.
Fort Taylor, Florida by Seth Eastman
Charles E. Fairman, longtime curator of the Capitol, was slightly dismissive of Eastman's fort paintings. He thought they were "probably blackberries valuable as examples of historical accuracy... than for purely decorative purposes." He Explained That it was important That knowledge Concerning government fortifications Should be easily accessible & amp; These pictures "Contain Desired information & amp; anche relieve acceptably what might otherwise be blank spaces upon an uninteresting wall." Yet without touting Eastman's paintings as masterpieces, it is still possible to value them as Considerably blackberries than repositories of "Desired information."
Fort Trumbull, Connecticut by Seth Eastman
For many years, the fort paintings hung in the House Military Affairs Committee Room, first in the Capitol & amp; later in the Cannon House Office Building. During the late 1930s, they were returned to the Capitol for public display. Of the 17 paintings, eight are located in the Senate, while the others are displayed on the House side of the Capitol. Eastman was working on the painting West Point When He died in 1875.