Curator Conversations: The Soldier's Gaze

Time Period
1861 to 1876
Media Type
Art & Architecture
Civil War
Military History
Politics & Government
Dr. James Brookes

In this series, VMHC curatorial staff bring exclusive member-only programs to you on a variety of interesting topics. To see upcoming events in this series, please visit

The Soldier’s Gaze: War Art by Civil War Soldiers (April 24, 2023): When civilians entered military service during the Civil War, they also began a creative struggle to represent and record the conflict. In addition to letters, diaries, and memoirs, soldiers relied upon visual culture as an effective medium with which to convey and grapple with the experiences of war. Soldier-artists produced art within the context of a prevailing public narrative that idealized the experience of war. Some created romantic illustrations to justify their cause, celebrate their martial prowess, and adhere to the expectations of civilian society. Others found patriotic symbolism unsustainable in the face of an increasingly mechanized conflict, abandoning popular strategies in search of new ways to communicate war’s violence. Nearly all offered a sympathetic view of the ordinary soldier at war. Join Melanie Trent De Schutter Library Director James Brookes as we recover the dynamism as to how soldiers attempted to visually represent the experience of civil war using photographs, paintings, and pencil and pen sketches.