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Civil War painting returned to its place in the IMU's Memorial Room

Nov. 14, 2016

After being on display as part of the Indiana State Museum’s bicentennial art exhibit for about seven months, a Civil War painting by William McKendree Snyder has been returned to its place in the IMU's Memorial Room.

Painting is installed in Memorial Room

John Walker, an IMU maintenance staff member, prepares to install the painting in the Memorial Room at the IMU. | PHOTO BY JAMES BROSHER, IU COMMUNICATIONS

The painting is about 35 pounds and 4 feet by 77 inches tall and depicts one of the few Civil War battles fought in southern Indiana. 

“Did you eat your Wheaties?” Sherry Rouse, campus curator of art, said with a laugh to three IMU staff members as they lifted the large painting and used security hangers to secure it on the wall.

The painting had to be re-glazed with a plastic coating and affixed with a Tyvek backing to protect it from moisture before it was wrapped over and over in bubble wrap and wheeled down to the Memorial Room on a cart.

“I’m doing this for the veterans,” said John Walker, an IMU maintenance staff member. He climbed onto metal scaffolding set up in the Memorial Room to hang the painting.

It is placed just inside the room’s entrance and hangs over a digital version of the Golden Book, which documents the names of IU’s services members dating back to the War of 1812.

Snyder’s painting was previously hung over the desk of former IU Kokomo Chancellor Stuart Green and was eventually kept by the IU Foundation.

“When I found this painting, I didn’t have a good painting for the Memorial Room that made sense,” Rouse said. “The war depiction is perfect, I think.”

The battle in the painting takes place in the winter. Snow covers the ground. Under leafless trees, one soldier lies dead. Two others stand shielded behind rocks, their weapons at the ready. In the distance beyond the battleground, rays of soft yellow sunshine peek over the rooftop of a cabin in the woods.

“It’s not a pleasant painting,” Rouse said. “There’s death, but there’s also a sunrise, and it gives you some hope.”

Snyder, an Indiana native, was a drummer boy during the Civil War. He enlisted with his father, who was a chaplain for the Union cause. The painting dates back to circa 1883.

“He actually witnessed this kind of thing, and it sat in the back of his mind until he was an adult painting pictures,” Rouse said.

Snyder’s piece had been loaned out to the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis as part of its “200 Years of Indiana Art: A Cultural Legacy” exhibition but was returned to the Memorial Room on the first floor of the IMU just in time Veterans Day. 

“It’s good to have it back,” Rouse said.

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