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Manet and the American Civil War: The Battle of U.S.S. Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama

Manet and the American Civil War: The Battle of U.S.S. Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama

Wilson-Bareau, Juliet, with David C. Degener
86 pages
66 illustrations
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On June 19, 1864, the United States warship Kearsarge sank the Confederate raider Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France, in one of the most celebrated naval engagements of the American Civil War. The battle was widely reported in the illustrated press and riveted public attention on both sides of the Channel. When Kearsarge later anchored off the French resort town of Boulogne-sur-Mer it was thronged by curious visitors, one of whom was the artist Édouard Manet. Although he did not witness the historic battle, Manet made a painting of it partly as an attempt to regain the respect of his colleagues after having been ridiculed for his works in the 1864 Salon. Manet's picture of the naval engagement and his portrait of the victorious Kearsarge belong to a group of his seascapes of Boulogne whose unorthodox perspective and composition would profoundly influence the course of French painting.

This book, which accompanies an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, begins by examining Manet's early experience of the sea, including the voyage to South America he took when he was sixteen years old. The detailed narrative of the battle that follows recounts the intriguing, at times clandestine history of the two ships, the tangled prelude to their encounter, and some of the vivid personalities involved. Manet's paintings and watercolors related to the battle are then considered in depth alongside numerous prints, photographs, letters, and archival newspaper illustrations that illuminate the stirring history of the episode and in some cases dispel lingering misconceptions. Manet's other Boulogne seascapes are also discussed in terms of their complex chronology and evolution. A final chapter touches on some of the sources for the seascapes—from Old Master paintings to Japanese woodblock prints—and traces the influence of the seascapes on such artists as Gustave Courbet, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Claude Monet.

June 1864
Combat Naval (L'Alabama coulant sous le feu de Kearsage), Charles Longueville  French, Etching
August 1864
Sinking of the Alabama, Warren W. Sheppard  American, Commercial lithograph
The "Kearsarge" at Boulogne, Edouard Manet  French, Oil on canvas
[Entrance to the Port of Boulogne], Edouard Baldus  French, born Prussia, Salted paper print from paper negative
Marine, Edouard Manet  French, Etching, aquatint, roulette and bitten tone in brown ink on laid paper with partial watermark (fleur de lis in a cartouche), only state
Christ Asleep during the Tempest, Eugène Delacroix  French, Oil on canvas
ca. 1853
Arai, Utagawa Hiroshige  Japanese, Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, Japan
ca. 1842
The Takihi Shrine, Oki Province, from the series Views of Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces, Utagawa Hiroshige  Japanese, Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, Japan
ca. 1853
The Green Wave, Claude Monet  French, Oil on canvas
ca. 1866–67

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