Lauren Gaggini; Tamanna Sikora; Amanda Fry

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge

By Dunmore (1907)
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Art Critique

In this painting, the artist has a very somber yet noble tone. The way George Washington holds himself reflects a kind of pride and strength that the artist clearly feels is relevant to this event, yet at the same time the artist chooses to use dark grey colors and blurry/fuzzy textures that depict the despair and fear that the time at valley forge gave the soldiers. The painting doesn't use any symmetry, but the viewers eye is instantly drawn to george washington, the focal point of the piece due to his large size and height compared to the other figures. I believe the purpose of this painting is to immortalize the strength and struggles of the soldiers at valley forge, and to remind people to have courage (like the people in the picture) even in tough times.

Artist Bio

John Ward Dunsmore, born in Riley, Butler County, Ohio, February 29, 1856, studied with Thomas Noble at the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was then in Paris from 1875 to 1879 studying at the Petite Ecole with Aimee Millet and privately with Thomas Couture. His first appearance in the National Academy exhibition was in 1879. When he returned to America it was to settle in Boston. While there he was awarded a medal from the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association in 1881.

Happening Truth

The time the American army spent at Valley Forge between 1777 and 1778 is famous as the lowest point of the war for the Americans in terms of morale. The Soldiers took shelter at the forge during the winter, and the conditions they were faced with were Highly unfavorable. Malnutrition, disease, inadequate food and clothing supplies, and the intense cold all contributed to the soldiers plight. To further display how bad conditions were for the soldiers, it should be noted that George Washington asked Patrick Henry, a famous orator, to make a speech to his soldiers simply to boost their low morale. George Washington was constantly trying to boost the moral of his soldiers, and that is most likely what he was doing in the picture this flyer is analyzing .

Story Truth

Stabbing pain covered the soldiers - none were unscathed by hunger. Defeat stunk worse than the death that followed them, worse than the smell of the cooking of whatever animals managed to survive the harsh winter. George Washington and Lafayette led a group of men on horses forward, onward to a place where their hopes may be recovered. The men stopped to receive a report from a small troop suffering from disease and defeat. Washington sat upon his mighty horse with dignity, despite all of his struggle. Still, spirit of revolution lived on. The sun was receding, and Washington accepted the truth of the condition of his troops with nobility. He knew they still had much to endure, and the morale was low, but he knew they could persevere.

War Story

Valley Forge is a spooky place. Filled with lots of bad stuff. Nothing good, really. Mostly pain, Blinding pain everywhere to be honest. I remembered feeling haunted the entire time there; haunted by ghosts, hunger, and coldness. Washington stopped by to tell my troop the reason why we were suspended in this Hell was because it was 'safer', from enemy invasions. To tell the honest to God truth, I think I would rather be invaded on. I couldn't get the faces of the dead out of my head. It was low. Every friend I had made was gone, everything was gone. We were all pathetic and sad. Nothing brought peace to us anymore. I missed my childhood all the time, I missed what this war had stolen from us. Sometimes I wondered if this was some Godly punishment to us sinners. It never ended. I was in pain in my sleep, the hauntings never ended. They should have renamed it Valley Ghosts by the time we were done with it.