Editor’s Note: The following guest post is from the creator of the “Remember Gettysburg!” 150th Anniversary poster, Jean-Pierre Got. For those of you interested, the poster is sale at www.GettysburgAddress.com.
My work as a «travelling poster artist» often takes me to many historical places.
So when I was in Leesburg, signing its «Wine Country Half Marathon» event poster in June 2011, I was determined to visit Gettysburg battlefields, not such a long drive from northern Virginia, after all. A very impressive and very moving spectacle, indeed, to be compared with our tragic WWI trenches site of Verdun in France. The Gettysburg Cyclorama also provided a vivid and strikening expression of the 1863 gruesome combats.
I had not heard of that French artist Paul Philippoteaux before and of his gigantic painted circular mural.
Back in France, I decided to learn more about those French painters whom the US Civil War inspired ; I have counted fifteen of them, from lithographer Pierre Duval, printing «In defense of the Union and the Constitution» posters in 1861 to Charles Hoffbauer with his «Cheering Stonewall Jackson & «Four Seasons of the Confederacy» 1914 Richmond murals. I, too, in my turn, should render some visual impressions of my Gettysburg visit, the upcoming of the «Gettysburg 150th Anniversary» in 2013 providing a sufficient and useful motivation to start working on the subject.
My «pastiche» style, in my posters, is a deliberate reminder to the viewers that «they might have already seen that image… somewhere. Or it might bring back memories of ancient posters. The «vintage look » I give to my artworks add to my subjects, in a deliberate imitation or a «voluntary confusion». A feeling of «déjà vu». Using pastel crayons for a vaporous atmosphere and a charcoal crayon to give that old lithograph print aspect.
Therefore, my commemorative Gettysburg poster would have to look like one of the US Civil War billboards with their bold letterheads and striking short slogans and my models were authentic civil war recruitment posters seen at Harper’s Ferry and Gettysburg historic museums. The title «Remember Gettysburg!», an obvious allusion to «Remember The Alamo!», would give, straight away, the main patriotic «editorial line».
For a poster should tell a story, an only story, attracting the passer’s by attention without distracting it by sending too many aside messages. But also the spectator’s imagination should be led to ramble, dream at random, finally allowing various interpretations.
On a poster, a human character brings «factuality»; reality & seriousness. Lincoln’s facial features are well known : hollow eyes sockets, protruding lips, the right cheek mole, the drooping left eyelid. All this had to be rendered, making the character familiar and sympathetic to the viewer. Not to forget the uncombed hair and loose tie. As for the beard that Lincoln started to grow after his 1860 election, many photos show an uncertain chin curtain, an hesitant chin strap or a thick goatee, with hair scarcely strewn on his face sides, maybe one of the signs of Lincoln’s poor health.
I wanted my portrait of Lincoln to look as he might have been in 1863 : a tired aged man. From the President’s photographs by Brady in July 1863 to Lincoln’s last seated portrait by Gardner in 1865, the burden of the office had taken its toll. But I tried to imagine him pronouncing the words written behind him, in a determined but soft voice, showing in his eyes the determination of the commander-in-chief as well as the kindness of the man. With a discreet smile of confidence. Drawn with a charcoal crayon for strength and pastel chalks for softness. In a gesture evidently reminiscent of «I Want You» 1914 army poster, of course, (my allusion and tribute to poster artist Montgomery Flagg) with a powerful hand, Lincoln points at the listener of his speech, at the witness of Gettysburg great page of History.
Hence Lincoln’s figure, rising from his Gettysburg Address, alive again in his call for younger generations in a plea to learn from the cruel lessons of the Past. Or my «Remember Gettysburg!» poster could well just be my own understanding of the dreadful sacred teachings of the war battlefields contained in Lincoln’s moving and visionary Gettysburg Address.
“Remember Gettysburg!” Anniversary Poster is now in the museum collections of The Lincoln Memorial (Redlands, CA), President Lincoln Cottage (Washington, DC), The Lincoln Museum (Hodgenville, KY), The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (Springfield, IL) & Motts Military Museum( Groveport, OH).
Also on sale at www.GettysburgAddress.com.
***Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!
What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.
Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.