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Developer builds up an impressive war-art trove

November 20, 2012 12:10 am

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Artist Pamela Patrick White depicts Clara Barton tending wounded at Chatham. 112712tcexhibit1.jpg

'Let Us Try,' by artist Mark Churms, depicts Union engineers building a pontoon bridge, under fire, to Fredericksburg in December 1862. 112712tcexhibit3.jpg

'Lee's Headquarters' shows the Confederate commander conferring with 'Stonewall' Jackson and James Longstreet.

BY CLINT SCHEMMER

Larry Silver has built a to-die-for art collection.

It includes the top names in Civil War art and illustration--people whose work is sought by collectors, galleries and history buffs across the world.

On Saturday, a small selection of that artwork is coming to the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, where the public can enjoy it during the region's kickoff to its most intense period of the war's sesquicentennial.

"The Battle of Fredericksburg forever changed our area and had a lasting effect over the next century," museum president and CEO Ellen Killough said in a statement. "These pieces have never before been seen by our community, and they are a wonderful opportunity to visually experience the historic significance of this chapter in our local history."

The Battle of Fredericksburg, fought in mid-December 1862, was the first of four major battles fought in the area--making it the most blood-soaked landscape of the entire 41/2-year conflict.

The temporary exhibit comes courtesy of Silver, president and CEO of Silver Cos., the area's largest developer.

The executive's interest in the subjects emerged from his boyhood in Fredericksburg.

"Even today, you can see the historic imprint left behind by this battle on our nation's history," he said in a statement.

"My father, Carl Silver, who had a deep love for this community for over 70 years, taught me how important it is to remember and respect your past. I hope these paintings help inspire a new generation to cherish the rich history that is Fredericksburg."

Silver said he and the Silver Cos. wanted to do something significant for the battle's sesquicentennial.

He commissioned dozens of oil paintings, which have never been shown to the public, starting in 2006 as part of the Silver Cos.' early plans for its Celebrate Virginia retail complex, when a visitors center there was being considered.

Silver's collection focuses on the history of Fredericksburg from the Colonial era, when George Washington lived here with his family, through the Civil War.

He is providing 10 oil paintings, chosen by the museum staff, for the exhibition. They were created by many of America's most respected historical artists, including Mort Künstler, Don Troiani, Bradley Schmehl, Pamela Patrick White, Heide Presse, Keith Rocco, Dan Nance and Mark Churms.

Each work was chosen for its depiction of life, death and struggle during the four critical days in late 1862 that made "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!" the rallying cry of Union troops who, 16 months later, repelled Pickett's Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg.

As Silver developed his collection, a Fredericksburg-area advisory group worked for several years to provide historical perspective and balance to the endeavor.

Those advisers were Greg Mertz, supervisory historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park; Ed Watson and Mary Helen Dellinger, both formerly of the regional museum; local historian Jervis Hairston; art professional Ken Haack; and Bernadette Bruce of the Silver Cos.

Watson, the museum's director emeritus, urged people to be sure to see the unique exhibit.

"The museum's showing of these Civil War commemorative paintings is significant for the role that Fredericksburg played in the war," he said in an interview. "These paintings dramatize this conflict and its effects on the city and the surrounding counties in a way that only original works of art can do."

The museum is partnering with the University of Mary Washington to bring the paintings, which are on permanent display at the Silver Cos.' office in Florida, to Fredericksburg. The works will return there after the exhibit closes on Jan. 1.

In a statement, UMW President Richard V. Hurley thanked Silver for honoring the battle's 150th anniversary, calling it a "wonderful exhibit."

Hurley lives in a historic house on Marye's Heights that figured importantly in Dec. 13 fighting and was the residence of the area's delegate to the Virginia secession convention in early 1861.

"The UMW campus, particularly the president's home Brompton, uniquely occupies ground that was pivotal to the course of our nation," he noted. "Therefore, we have a special role to play in such efforts to reflect on our history and to educate for future generations."

The Silver family has a long tradition of local philanthropy.

The Silver Foundation has helped build community centers, medical facilities, and adoptive-care homes. Carl Silver, Larry's late father, gave millions of dollars to build the Lloyd F. Moss Free Clinic, the largest of Virginia's 47 free clinics.

The Silver family also donated the land on State Route 3 for the Cancer Center of Virginia.

Several of the artists who created works in Silver's collection will take part in a signing event at the museum on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The public is invited to meet them.

Prints, giclees, and commemorative posters will be available for purchase during the exhibit, with a portion of proceeds being donated to the museum.

The cultural center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. For more information on the exhibit, call Ellen Killough at 540/371-3037, ext. 134, or visit famcc.org.

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
Email: cschemmer@freelancestar.com





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