This winter, the Corcoran Gallery of Art
presents Shadows of History: Photographs of the Civil War from the Collection of Julia J. Norrell (February 4May 6), an exhibition that explores how photography was used to document the Civil War. The exhibitions 36 works include early tintype, ambrotype, and cartes-de-visite portraits, rare images of African American regiments, and an installation by contemporary artist Whitfield Lovell.
Shadows of History is organized by Philip Brookman, Chief Curator and Head of Research at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and Kaitlin Booher, assistant curator of photography and media arts, and drawn primarily from the collection of Washington collector Julia Judy Norrell.
The American Civil War, one of the first conflicts to be extensively documented by photography, for the first time brought home powerful images of human devastation and the destructive impact of war. The photographs in Shadows of History highlight important themes and subject matter in Civil War photography, including the impact of war on the landscape and on people, by some of the most prominent photographers of the day. Images by George Barnard, Issac H. Bonsall, Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardner, James F. Gibson, Frederick F. Gutekunst, Timothy H. OSullivan, Andrew J. Russell, D. B. Woodbury, and others, are included. One highlight of the show is an unusual sequence depicting African American soldiers drilling by an unknown photographer.
Photograph continues to shape our understanding of the Civil War, said Brookman. Judys collection, informed by her complicated feelings about the South and its history, reminds us of old wounds, and of those that remain to be healed.
An installation by American artist Whitfield Lovell,is included in the exhibition. Created in 2001, Visitation: The Richmond Project: Battleground, features a life-size portrait of an African American soldier drawn on wooden planks, with objects evoking the Civil War.