Friday, April 25, 2008

Max Ernst

Max Ernst was born in Germany in 1891. His father enjoyed painting (as a hobby) but Ernst’s interest in art did not begin until he went to Bonn University in 1909 to study psychology and philosophy. He began painting in 1910.

When World War I broke out, Ernst was forced to serve in the army. He was not pleased to do so and thought of his time in the army as an annoying interruption of his passion: art. He was able to do some painting, though, and showed work in 1916 in Berlin, Germany.

After the war, Ernst became friends with some Dadaists and joined the movement. He created Fruit of a Long Experience from junk, just as you did if you created your own recycled art last week. In 1922 he moved to Paris to be nearer to other Dada artists.

Ernst turned to Surrealism as many other Dadaists did (including Salvador Dali). Most interesting about Ernst’s Surrealist paintings was the bird he used to symbolize himself. Rather than painting himself into his paintings, as many artists did including Sandro Botticelli, Ernst painted a bird. The bird was called Loplop and can be found in a number of Ernst’s paintings: Loplop Introduces Loplop, Surrealism and Painting.
During World War II, Ernst was twice sent to a concentration camp. The first time he was freed. The second time he had to escape. Peggy Guggenheim (Goo-gen-high-m), a lover and collector of art who set up museums all over the world, helped Ernst to safely reach the U.S. He and Peggy Guggenheim married but the relationship didn’t last long.

In New York, Ernst helped to bring about Abstract Expressionism (the art movement that included Jackson Pollock).

Ernst moved back to France in 1953 where he lived until his death in 1976.

No post on Monday. I'm going to Massachusetts to visit my family! Enjoy your weekend and be sure to check back on Tuesday.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008


Sorry for the lack of post today. I was out celebrating last night. I'll tell you about it later. Check back tomorrow to learn about another Surrealist!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali strove to shock people, not only through his art, but with his actions and his words as well. He was a Surrealist in all aspects of his life, so much so that the other members of the Surrealist movement eventually tried to separate themselves from Dali.

Born in Catalonia, Spain in 1904, Salvador Dali showed artistic talent early. His father was very strict but his mother was much gentler and encouraged him to explore his interest in art. In 1916 he began drawing classes. Then, in 1922, Dali went to Madrid to study at the Academia de San Fernando.

While at school, Dali painted in the Cubist style and experimented briefly with Dada. It was also during this time that he developed the first of his many strange styles of dress: He grew his hair long and wore sideburns and he dressed in suit coats, stockings, and short pants that stopped at the knee. After nearly four years of school, his ego had grown so large that he decided he was too good for any of the professors to judge him. When he expressed this feeling, he was kicked out of the academy.

After he left the Academia de San Fernando, Dali began to experiment will Surrealism. He also grew a thin mustache that curved up at either end. Both the mustache and the surrealist style would last the rest of Dali’s life.

I cannot show you paintings here (due to copyright law) but I will direct you to some of Dali’s most famous paintings. First, look at The Persistence of Memory. The melting clocks portray the idea that time is not always steady. That weird shape in the middle of the painting is a face. It was based on a rock formation off the shore of Catalonia, Spain.

Next, look at Swans Reflecting Elephants. It is the reflections that make this painting so fantastic.

Dali included reflections in other paintings as well, including Metamorphosis of Narcissus. Focus hard and you’ll see a hand holding a blooming egg (the flower is a narcissus) and, beside it, a man leaning toward the water. The story of Narcissus tells of a man who was so in love with himself that he drown trying to embrace his own reflection. The gods then created a flower in his memory and named it after him. This paintings is Dali’s interpretation of that story.

Dali not only painted, but created sculpture, worked on films (including one for Disney), made jewelry, experimented with photography, and helped design the Dali Theater and Museum in Figueres, Spain.

In 1989, Salvador Dali died. Some believe that, on his deathbed, he was forced to sign blank canvases. As the rumor goes, paintings were later created on the canvases and passed off as Dali’s work.

There are lots of crazy stories about Dali. Sometime I'll write a post just about his wackiness but for now his art is more important.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Create Your Own Surrealist Collage

Happy Earth Day! Today we must remember how important it is to care for our planet. Your project today should be made entirely from things you find around your house. Use throw-away flyers, newspapers, or old magazines to create your Surrealist collage. Be sure to ask permission before you cut anything!

Before you begin, look for inspiration at these galleries of Surrealist painters:
Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst.

Yesterday you learned about Surrealism. When making your collage, keep in mind that your finished artwork should look like a dream. Group unrelated pictures together (like I did) or use strange colors (try coloring black and white images with crayons) to create the effect of a dream. I cut out a bunch of pictures I liked without thinking about how they might fit together. Then I used a glue stick to combine those pictures:
Stretch your imagination but, in honor of Earth Day, only use materials that would have been thrown away or recycled. For another project suitable for Earth Day, check out Recycled Art, Dada Style.

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Monday, April 21, 2008


Dadaism, which you read about on Thursday, led to Surrealism. The same distaste for World War I and for the thinking of the society of the time created Surrealism.

Writers began the Surrealist movement. In 1924, Andre Breton explained Surrealism in his Surrealist Manifesto, and a few years later artists began to paint in the style he described. Surrealists wanted to free their minds of rational thought, to write or paint the ideas that were buried deep in their minds. These artists did not wish their work to make simple, logical sense.

This is why many of the paintings look like scenes from a dream (or nightmare). Many Surrealist paintings, like Salvador Dali’s Swans Reflecting Elephants, include imaginary creatures or real-life creatures shown in unnatural ways. Some paintings, such as Max Ernst’s Seascape, include several seemingly unrelated objects. Others twist realistic images by using strange colors.

In any Surrealist paintings, there is a lot to look at.

This week is Surrealism week so check back for posts about some important Surrealist painters.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Recycled Art, Dada Style

Look! I made a piggy! I know my pig isn’t really “beautiful.” But I did create something new out of an empty soda bottle and some toilet paper rolls. I’m not going to give you directions to make your own recycled pig. The point of this activity is to use your imagination to create something beautiful (or not so beautiful) out of trash. I will show you some pictures of the process, though:
Now that you’ve been subjected to my attempt, check out this cool roadrunner made completely out of trash.

And have a great weekend!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


You’ve seen a Dadaist work of art, though when you saw it someone was probably poking fun at the silly bicycle wheel posing as art (Bicycle Wheel, by Marcel Duchamp). The joke’s on us, though. The Dadaists meant to turn our world upside, to make it seem crazy and absurd. They meant for us to rethink the items that surround us so that we might rethink our world.
Dadaism began in Zurich, Switzerland and spread to France, Germany, Spain, and the U.S. The movement began around 1916 and continued until about 1920.

The artists known as Dadaists thought that World War I was a terrible thing. They thought it was ridiculous for people all over the world to spend years killing each other. Because the war shaped the world in which these artists lived, this distaste for WWI became a distaste for the state of the world.

The Dadaists protested through their art the war and the current culture. Raoul Hausmann’s The Mechanical Head shows a man who cannot think for himself but accepts everything he is told. He has a wooden head with tight lips and eyes that show no expression. The mechanical man will never argue or share an opinion of his own. Look for yourself:
According to the Dadaists, once the culture had been stripped down it could be rebuilt. So the Dadaists made chaos out of the WWI culture by, for instance, calling a urinal a fountain and putting it on display (shown below, by Marcel Duchamp). The Dadaists took common objects and created art with those objects, thus bringing out the often ignored beauty of the everyday world. Marcel Duchamp also poked fun at the masters by “reworking” the Mona Lisa.
Dadaism paved the way for other art movements such as Surrealism which I’ll post about next week. The movements that follow Dadaism were charged with the responsibility of rebuilding what the Dadaists had stripped away.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Create Your Own Mondrian Masterpiece, Project 2

In December you learned about Piet Mondrian. Mondrian’s art became more abstract over time until his paintings contained only lines and rectangles of five colors: black, white, red, blue, and yellow. I recommend that you reread that post to refresh your memory before continuing with this project.
Also in December, I posted a Mondrian-inspired painting project. The project I am sharing with you today is much simpler. It’s also not nearly as messy and requires fewer supplies. I’m pleased with how my artwork came out and I think you’ll have good results, too.

Supplies Needed:

Construction Paper: Black, White, Red, Yellow, Blue
Glue Stick

Gather your materials. You will use a full sheet of black and less than one sheet each of the other colors.

Do not cut your sheet of black construction paper. It will be the background of your artwork and will form the black lines between colors. Cut various sized rectangles, strips, and squares of white, red, yellow, and blue.

Lay your colors onto your black paper. If necessary, cut the rectangles so they fit onto the paper. Play with the rectangles until you like the look of your artwork.

To complete your artwork, use your glue stick to attach the rectangles to the black paper.

This is a great project to do with a group of kids. It is not too difficult or time consuming, and each child will create a unique piece.

Don’t forget to check out my post on De Stijl, the art movement to which Piet Mondrian belonged.

You may also be interested to create your own edible Mondrian painting.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Create Your Own Calder Mobile

Yesterday you learned about Alexander Calder, his circus, his stabiles, and his mobiles. Today, try your hand at creating a mobile, just like Calder.

Supplies Needed:

Construction Paper
Hole Punch
Thread (or yarn for younger children)

White Glue

This is a great project for older kids who are learning about weight and balance, though, with a little help, younger children can also enjoy creating mobile art.

Gather your materials. Venture outside to collect some sticks. Look for sticks of different lengths but try to choose slim sticks rather than fat ones. Then choose as many or as few colors of construction paper as you wish.

Cut out shapes from your construction paper. I chose to make rounded forms but you can cut any shapes you want. You can even cut out fish or birds. Punch a hole at the top of each cut out.
Lay your sticks out in the order you plan to tie them. I made only four levels but Calder’s mobiles could be much larger. Often his mobiles had five or more levels. The more levels you create, the more difficult it will be to balance your mobile. I would not make your mobile much larger than mine.
Tie your sticks together. Leave the threads or yarn a little loose so you can slide them along the sticks if you need to adjust later. Next, tie the shapes to the sticks.
Have an adult help you hang your mobile from the ceiling or in a doorway. Your adult helper can also help you fix the balance of all the parts of your mobile. Start at the top of your mobile and work your way down. Slide the top thread back and forth along the uppermost stick until the stick hangs straight. Dab a little glue on the thread to hold it in place. Do the same for the next stick and then the next until all of your sticks hang horizontally.
Enjoy your mobile as it swings and spins with the air currents in your home.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder invented the mobile. Because of Calder, babies all over the world are lulled to sleep by colorful dangling shapes. Calder also created an entire miniature circus which could be packed into briefcases and carried back and forth between America and Europe. He was certainly a unique artist.

Calder was born in Pennsylvania in 1898. His parents were both artists. His father was a sculptor and his mother painted portraits. They knew it was difficult to earn money as an artist so, though they encouraged Calder to create art, they did not want him to choose to art as a job.

Alexander Calder’s talent could be seen even in his first sculpture, which he created when he was four years old. As he continued to sculpt, Calder became interested in sculpture that moved. He created a duck that rocked when tapped and a train that ran down a track.

He followed his parents’ advice and studied engineering in college. Calder wasn’t happy in any of the jobs he worked after college, though, and decided to become an artist after all.

While he studied at the Artist Students’ League in New York, Calder sketched for the National Police Gazette. One of his assignments marked the beginning with a love and fascination for the circus: he sketched scenes from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Calder moved to Paris in 1926 where he began to build toys that moved. These toys eventually became his own miniature circus. He packed his circus into suitcases and performed in the U.S. and in Europe. You can see a video clip of Cirque Calder at YouTube. Calder seems like quite a character.

Calder’s interest in movable art led him to create mobiles. Air currents caused the mobiles to move. Calder also created sculptures that didn’t move. He called them “stabiles.” Most of them were made out of painted wood or metal. Check out the official Alexander Calder website to see pictures of these mobiles and stabiles.

In 1973 Calder painted a plane for Braniff International Airways. The plane became a “flying canvas.” He painted one more plane and began a third before he died in 1976.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to make your own Calder-inspired mobile!

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Draw Like an Egyptian

You already read about how the ancient Egyptians created such perfect paintings for their tombs. They first drew a small picture on papyrus, then created a grid on the wall, then painted a larger version of their picture onto the wall. You can do this too.

Supplied Needed:

Graph paper
Poster board
Measuring stick

Draw a picture onto your graph paper. Create your own picture or trace an image from a book.

Use your pencil to lightly draw a grid onto your poster board. (Note: You could instead use easel paper or cut pieces of paper from a roll.) You should measure carefully to be sure that each square is an equal size. This is something an adult can help you with. Also, be sure you include enough squares when you create your grid. If your original picture took up ten squares by twenty squares, you should draw a ten square by twenty square grid onto your poster board.

Now you can transfer your picture onto your poster board. Focus on one square at a time. Before you know it, you’ll have your own poster-board-sized drawing!

Color your picture. When it is perfect, erase the pencil lines of your grid.

What do you think? Would you have liked to paint in an ancient Egyptian tomb?

To create your own ancient Egyptian mask, check out yesterday’s post.

To read all about Egyptian art, click on any of the following links:
Paintings, Carvings, Sculpture, Amarna Art, Fayum Portraits

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Create Your Own Ancient Egyptian Mask

I posted five articles about ancient Egyptian art (read them here: 1,2,3,4,5) but I didn’t post any projects. That was silly. I’ll post a second project tomorrow.

Today, I’ll show you how to create your own ancient Egyptian mask. Egyptians never would have worn these masks when they were alive. Masks were tucked into the wrappings of mummies before they were put into tombs. You can enjoy yours now, though.

Supplies Needed:

Paper Plate
Construction Paper in several colors
Large Tongue Depressor
Glue Stick
Red and Black Markers

I cut an oval out of cardboard but you should use a paper plate instead. It will be much easier to cut the eye holes!

Begin by choosing construction paper colors. I used red and blue but any two colors will work. Draw one side of your headdress onto a piece of construction paper. You will need to use the entire length of the construction paper. When you are happy with the way it looks, cut it out. Then trace it and cut out a second copy. You now have both sides of your headdress.
On another piece of construction paper, trace the top part of your paper plate to create a half circle. Cut out the half circle and glue it to the top of your paper plate.
Cut strips of your other color and use them to decorate the headdress of your mask. Next, draw the eyes onto your paper plate. The eye holes should be about the size of a quarter. Have an adult cut out the eye holes. Draw the rest of the features of the face, then trace the lines with your markers.
Glue the sides of the headdress to the back of the plate. Tape a tongue depressor to the bottom of your mask so you can hold the mask over your face. If you choose, decorate the tongue depressor to look like a beard.

Now you too can be an ancient Egyptian pharaoh!

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

George Bellows

George Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1882. He went to Ohio State University where he excelled at baseball. He was even encouraged to play professional ball. But his heart wasn’t in baseball; he was a painter. So in 1904, when he had nearly finished his degree, Bellows left the university and moved to New York City.
He enrolled at the New York School of Art and became interested in painting the grittiest and dirtiest details of American life. There was a group of artists in the early 1900s who painted mainly city scenes that showed the lives of the poor. The artists, members of the Ash Can School, only showed their work together once and, at that time, Bellow’s paintings weren’t included. The term “Ash Can School” is used today for artists who painted in New York City during the early twentieth century and portrayed city life. Above is Cliff Dwelers, below is Men of the Docks and Steaming Streets.
Bellows gained fame when he helped organized a show of city landscapes. His fame grew as he showed his work at judged art shows across the country. As he became a recognized artist, wealthy art lovers began to ask for portraits. Bellow continued to paint city scenes but he also painted many portraits, like the one shown below, Portrait of Emme in Night Light.
When the U.S. became involved in World War I, Bellows deeply and publicly supported the decision. He enlisted at age 35 but was never sent abroad to fight. He used his art to show his passion and began painting war scenes. These paintings are very intense and so I will not show any here.

What he was best known for, though, were his boxing paintings. These were painted later in his life and you can see that he had learned how to paint realistically. You can see even the sweat on the muscled bodies as they push against each other. One of his boxing pictures appeared on a U.S. Postal stamp. Below is the painting on the stamp, Shag at Starkeys.
Besides painting, Bellows helped to spread the art of lithography. A lithograph is a copy of a painting made by applying the painting to a smooth, hard surface, and using certain chemicals to transfer the image to paper. Bellows had a lithography press in his studio and used it to create about 100 images.

George Bellows died in 1925.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sandro Botticelli

Born in 1445, Sandro Botticelli was an important painter during the Italian Renaissance. He was first apprenticed to a goldsmith but, when it became clear that Botticelli preferred painting, he became the apprentice of Fra Filippo Lippi. Lippi was a master in his time and he taught Botticelli a lot.

From Lippi, Botticelli learned to paint on wood panel and on fresco. He also learned how to paint perspective (look at the Story of Nastagio degli Onesti) and how to paint flowing clothing. Botticelli even used pale colors similar to those used by Lippi.
By 1470, Botticelli was a master in his own right. People happily paid him to paint masterpieces for them or their churches. He even painted some panels for the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo outshone him there, though, as you’ll remember from an earlier post.

Botticelli is known for the dreamy look of the people (and gods, goddess, and angels) in his paintings. What I really love about Botticelli is the way he painted faces. Each face is different but full of life and beautiful in its own way. Look at Portrait of a Young Woman. The look at Madonna and Child with Angel (below). I can’t stop looking at the Madonna's face.

Botticelli painted a lot of religious figures and scenes. One example is the painting shown above. Also, look at the Adoration of the Magi below. You see Mary presenting the baby Jesus to the Magi (the three wise men). That man in the brown robe on the right hand side is believed to be Botticelli.
He also painted many mythological scenes. Look at the Birth of Venus (below). Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty. She was believed to have been born from the sea. By placing her on a seashell, Botticelli shows this in his painting.
Botticelli did not paint as much in his old age and after he died in 1510 he was mostly forgotten. His paintings were not moved from the churches or homes where they were originally placed until much later. He didn’t become popular again until the end of the 1800s but as soon as his paintings were brought to the attention of the public people couldn’t get enough.

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Monday, April 7, 2008



Cave Painting 30,000-8,000BCE

Egyptian Art 3200-1070BCE
Amarna Art 1370-1340BCE

Ancient Greece 1000- BCE
*Geometric Period
*Archaic Period
*Classical Period

Renaissance 1400-1600AD
*Fra Angelico

*da Vinci
*van Eyck
*Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Baroque 1600-1700AD



Rococo 1725-1775

Art Brut 1800s-present


Impressionism 1870s-1890sAD

*van Gogh


Pointillism 1880s-1900AD

Les Nabis 1890s-1900AD

Art Nouveau 1890s-1905AD

*de Saint Phalle
*Spanish Architectural Style
*van de Velde

Fauvism 1900-1920AD

Cubism 1907-1914AD

Dadaism 1916-1920AD

De Stijl 1917-1920sAD

Harelm Renaissance 1919-1930s
*Jacob Lawrence

Surrealism 1924- 1930s


Abstract Expressionism 1945-1960AD

*Pollock (Action Painting)
-----Color Field Painting-----


Kinetic Art 1950s-1960s

Pop Art 1960sAD

*Thiebaud (sort of)

*Dr. Seuss
*Mudejar Style
*Talavera Pottery

You’ll notice that I was unable to put some artists into categories. It’s not as simple as it seems. Many artists painted in several different styles. Some artists really don’t fit a category at all. If you notice that I’ve missed someone, please comment and I’ll correct myself.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

I know I’ve posted a lot of book reviews this week. I read a lot of art related books in the last few days, what can I say? But this will be the last one for a while. Promise.

I have already recommended one of Peter H. Reynolds’ books, Ish. I found out later that Ish is the follow-up to the book I am recommending today, The Dot. I loved Ish, but I think The Dot is even better.

Vashti doesn’t think she can draw. She doesn’t think she could ever create a work of art that someone would want to frame and hang on the wall. She definitely never imagined that she would star in an art show. But her teacher helps her to find the artist inside. It all begins with just one dot.

This picture book, for children 4-8 years of age, is illustrated in typical Reynolds ink, watercolor, and tea. I love that Vashti’s own artwork stands out from the background and even the people in the illustrations.

Best of all, Vashti’s story inspires confidence in even the most unsure artists.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Book Recommendation: Mini Masters Boxed Set by Merberg and Bober

I would love to review this entire boxed set of board books by Julie Merberg and Susan Bober, but I've only had the chance to read one of the books. It was great though and I'm confident in the entire collection.

The Mini Masters Boxed Set includes four small but sturdy board books: In the Garden with Van Gogh, A Picnic with Monet, Dancing with Degas, and A Magical Day with Matisse. If you click through to you'll notice that there are several more board books in the series that are not included in the set.

I have had the great pleasure to read In the Garden with Van Gogh. In fun rhymed lines, Merberg and Bober tell the story of a wheat harvest. The book is illustrated with van Gogh's paintings of wheat in all its stages of growth and harvest. And, of course, a connection is drawn between the growing wheat and growing children (who sleep beneath a starry night).

My opinion is that you can never have too many books, especially books about art. You can buy each of these board books individually but if you plan to buy two or more, it's less expensive to pick up the boxed set. Pretty good deal for an art education.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Day With No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch

A Day With No Crayons, by Elizabeth Rusch, is a beautifully illustrated picture book for ages 4-8.

When Liza colors on her bedroom wall, her mother takes away her crayons for a whole day! At first Liza fears that her day will be colorless and artless. As she pouts and stomps around, Liza discovers that there is color all around her—in the sink, in the trees, on the ground. She finds that she can create her own masterpieces without her crayons.

The illustrations by Chad Cameron are perfect. I especially like the reference to van Gogh in the bathroom sink. Check out the book for yourself to see what I mean.

This book is great for kids who love to color. They will easily relate to Liza’s disappointment at losing her crayons.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008


On Saturday I visited Gettysburg. The battle of Gettysburg was a very important battle of the Civil War (U.S.). For three days, July 1, 2, and 3, 1863, the union army (the north) and the confederate army (the south) fought in the fields and mountains of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle wore out the confederates and was the last huge battle that General Lee would ever attempt.
Today, the Gettysburg National Military Park is laid out over 18 miles. In your car you can visit many monuments, battle fields, and places that were important during the battle. You can also walk through the cemetery where 6000 people, including veterans of the Civil War, have been laid to rest. It was in the cemetery that Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address.
The fields are peaceful today. Even beautiful. Nothing like the scene in Peter Frederick Rothermel’s Pickett’s Charge (shown below).
Notice the canon in the bottom left corner. There are many canons on display in the cemetery and throughout the driving tour, like the one shown below.
Also look at the rock wall stretching from the bottom center of the painting. Those rock walls were still scattered through the fields. The soldiers used them to protect themselves from gun fire.