The exhibit catalog that accompanies this presentation is available through The Cupola at: http://cupola.gettysburg.edu/artcatalogs/10/
Popular artwork during the era of the Civil war can be placed into three broad categories. The first is a prewar theme of political discontent, in which political leaders were viewed as ineffective and ill-prepared to address the political challenges of the day. Additionally, this prewar theme was also characterized by a romanticized interpretation of war and unrealistic ideas about the nobility and honor of war. The second period is the wartime period in which the romanticized depictions of war disappeared as the harsh reality of prolonged civil war set in. Popular artwork was much more focused on the ugly realities of the war and not on fanciful notions of glory and honor that had pervaded prewar society. Finally, there is a postwar period which saw the slow return of the stylized and idealized representations of the American Civil War. While this change was not a rapid shift, the changes began to creep into art, as the immediate horror and suffering dimmed in the public eye. These idealized postwar portrayals of the American Civil War still exist today, though they do not represent a total regression to prewar idealism, as the human cost of the war is addressed in a stylized manner in the postwar period.