Photo of President Lincoln and Gen. McClellan on Battle-Field of Antietam

President Lincoln and Gen. McClellan on Battle-Field of Antietam / By Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) / Albumen silver print, 1862,  National Portrait Gallery,  Smithsonian Institution

Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872

September 18, 2015 - March 13, 2016
Second floor

Alexander Gardner created dramatic and vivid photographs of battlefields, which included images of the recently dead. These shocking Civil War-era images continue to haunt the national imagination. After the war, Gardner went west, creating unforgettable pictures of western landscape and portraits of American Indians.

Also included in "Dark Fields of the Republic" are Gardner's portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and other leading figures, both military and civilian. His best-known work, the museum's "cracked-plate" photograph of Lincoln, will be on view for this exhibition. The sitting on Feb. 5, 1865, took place mere weeks before Lincoln's assassination in April. The glass plate cracked, and Gardner created only one print before throwing the plate away.

The show also documents the course of American expansion as settlers moved westward after the war and includes landscapes and portraits of American Indians. Gardner's landscapes, with their sense of almost limitless horizons, juxtaposed with his detailed portraits of Indian chiefs and tribal delegations, have a haunting specificity and gravity. The exhibition is curated by David C. Ward, Portrait Gallery senior historian, with guest curator Heather Shannon, former photo archivist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, and research assistance from Sarah Campbell.

"Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872" is funded by members of the exhibition's leadership committee. The co-chairs for this philanthropic committee are gratefully acknowledged: The Abraham and Virginia Weiss Charitable Trust, Amy and Marc Meadows, in honor of Wendy Wick Reaves; The Stoneridge Fund of Amy and Marc Meadows; The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation; Peter and Rhondda Grant; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Uhler; and Kate Kelly and George Schweitzer.

  • Photograph of Mathew Brady, Juliet Brady and Mrs. Haggerty

    Mathew Brady, Juliet Brady and Mrs. Haggerty / Unidentified Artist / Mathew Brady Studio (active 1844 - 1894) / Quarter-plate daguerreotype, c. 1851 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

  • Photograph of Abraham Lincoln

    Abraham Lincoln / Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) / Copy after: Mathew Brady Studio (active 1844 - 1894) / Publisher: E. & H. T. Anthony & Company (active 1852 - 1901) / Albumen silver print, 1861 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

  • Photograph of the 1861 Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner

    Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln / Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) / Albumen silver print, March 4, 1861 / Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

  • Photograph titled soldiers killed at Antietam

    Gathered Together for Burial after the Battle of Antietam / Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) / Stereograph (Albumen silver print on stereo card), 1862 / Collection of Bob Zeller

  • Antietam Bridge, Maryland

    Antietam Bridge, Maryland / Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) / Albumen silver print, 1862 / National Archives, Washington, DC

  • Photograph of Walt Whitman

    Walt Whitman and Party / Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) / Albumen silver print, c. 1863 / Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio

  • Portrait of Alexander Gardner

    Alexander Gardner / James Gardner (1832 - ?) / Albumen silver print, 1863 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Larry J. West

  • Portrait of Abraham Lincoln

    Abraham Lincoln / Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) /Albumen silver print, 1865 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

  • Printed broadside -- wanted poster for John H. Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, and David E. Herold

    John H. Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, and David E. Herold / Unidentified Artist / Printed Broadside with albumen silver prints, 1865 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

  • Photograph of General Sheridan and His Staff

    General Sheridan and His Staff / Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) / Albumen silver print, c. 1865 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

  • Photograph of Ihanktonwan Nakota delegates Long Foot and Little Bird

    Ihanktonwan Nakota delegates Long Foot and Little Bird, Washington, D.C. / Alexander Gardner (1821 - 1882) / Albumen silver print, 1867 / National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution; William T. Sherman Collection of Alexander Gardner Photographs

  • Dark Fields of the Republic exhibition

    View of "Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872." Photo by Matailong Du.

  • Dark Fields of the Republic exhibition

    View of "Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872." Photo by Matailong Du.

On "Dark Fields of The Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872"

"Those with an interest in the Civil War, and Lincoln, will find the show thoroughly absorbing, but it is far more than a Civil War exhibition. Curator David Ward is sketching a larger picture of America in the late 19th century, a country transformed by war, disillusioned yet ambitious, moving seamlessly from internecine strife to genocidal violence against its native population."

Thursday, September 17, 2015
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