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So Bravely and So Well: The Life and Art of William T. Trego

June 4 - October 2, 2011


He was a painter who could barely hold a brush. He had to move his entire body to mix his colors. Yet William T. Trego (1858-1909) was a prize-winning artist with an international reputation, and his highly detailed and powerful battle scenes from the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War were widely exhibited and critically acclaimed during the late 19th century. (right: William T. Trego (1858-1909), Lieutenant of Light Artillery, 1900, oil on canvas, H. 12 x W. 18 inches, Collection of Thomas and Karen Buckley)

Partially paralyzed as a child (most likely due to polio), Trego never experienced the horrors of war, but his uncanny ability to portray battle from the point of view of fighting men and horses was much admired.

Trained by his father (artist Jonathan K. Trego), William Trego went on to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the AcadémieJulian in Paris. Two of his works were accepted in the annual Paris Salon exhibits. His decision to devote himself to military history painting was made early on, a choice possibly influenced by the American Civil War, which raged during the years of his childhood. Despite his severe physical challenges, Trego created his dramatic battle scenes with meticulous care, staging re-creations of battle scenes outdoors with models wearing authentic uniforms drawn from his private collection. Only after making countless charcoal sketches and working up individual men and horses in detailed oil studies did he begin applying paint to his final canvas.

"The William Trego project is our most ambitious scholarly project to date," said the Michener's Chief Curator Brian H. Peterson. "And what a colorful and tragic story this is! Anyone interested in Bucks County history, or for that matter the history of American art, owes a great debt to Joe Eckhardt for his thorough and disciplined search for the truth about this fascinating painter."

"If we filled the Michener galleries with Trego's art and said nothing about the artist's life, visitors would marvel at his skill and leave impressed by the work they had seen," said Guest Curator Joseph P. Eckhardt, Emeritus Professor of History at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. "But we are showcasing the artist's life as well as his art, and I think that is going to have another effect on visitors. I believe most patrons will leave the galleries not only impressed by his work, but inspired by an encounter with a truly remarkable human being."

Professor Eckhardt has been researching the life and work of William T. Trego since 2007 and was instrumental in arranging for the State of Pennsylvania to install a State Historical Marker at Trego's former home in North Wales, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 2008. In support of his research and his assistance in the preparation of the William T. Trego biography, exhibit, and online catalogue raisonné, the James A. Michener Art Museum awarded Professor Eckhardt the Helen Hartman Gemmill Research Fellowship for the years 2010 and 2011.  (left: William B. T. Trego (1858-1909), Battery, Forward! (also known as Bringing Up the Battery, Artillery to the Front, Civil War Battle Scene), 1887, oil on canvas, H. 19.25 x W. 29.5 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Museum purchase funded by Anne and Joseph Gardocki.)

Eckhardt's previous publications include a biography of film pioneer Siegmund Lubin (The King of the Movies, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997), and numerous articles on the early film industry published both in the U.S. and Europe. He founded and maintains the Betzwood Film Archive and Film Festival at Montgomery County Community College.

So Bravely and So Well: The Life and Art of William T. Trego is on view June 4 through October 2, 2011 at the James A. Michener Art Museum.

So Bravely and So Well marks the 150-year anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. In addition, the Michener Art Museum is again opening its doors as a Blue Star Museum. A joint program of the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and 900 participating museums across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Blue Star Museums offer free admission to all active-duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 30, through Labor Day September 5, 2100.


Related events:

· The Life and Art of William Trego: Curator's Lecture presented by Professor Joseph P. Eckhardt, Tuesday, June 7

· William T. Trego Exhibition Program: Private Tour of the Bucks County Civil War Library and Museum, Tuesday, June 14

· William T. Trego Exhibition Curator's Gallery Talk,Tuesday, September 13

· William T. Trego Exhibition Program: Lecture-in-song: I Hear America Singing: An Americana Sampler, Sunday, September 18


(above: William T. Trego (1858-1909),The Color Guard (French Dragoons Charging),1890, oil on canvas, H. 35 x W. 45.75 inches, West Point Museum, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York) 


(above: William T. Trego (1858-1909), Study for the Rescue of the Colors, 1899, oil on canvas, H. 9 x W. 12 inches, Collection of Syd and Sharon Martin)

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rev. 5/19/11

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