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Portrait Competition civil war george washington lunder conservation center
Return to previous pageCurrent Exhibition

September 17, 2015 through March 13, 2016


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.


When you visit the exhibition:

English language large type labels are available for smartphones via Guide By Cell:
Text: AGEN to 56512

Las traducciones al español están disponibles en tu smartphone vía Guide By Cell
Texto: AGSP para 56512

Images and large font English labels can be viewed on tablets or desktops at this address: (English)

Las reseñas en español en letra grande se pueden ver en iPads o computadoras en estas direcciones: (Español)

Las leyendas en español también están disponibles para descargar aquí:

Traducción en español de las leyendas de la exposición "Oscuros Campos de la RepÚblica"

Download exhibition labels for "Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs 1859-1872"

The Guide By Cell mobile applications have been made possible with support from the Philip and Elizabeth Ryan Fund.


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