National Geographic : 1951 Feb
176 National Ueographic 'tnotograpers B. Anthony Stewart and J. Baylor Roberts A Life-size, Hand-cranked Ancestor of the Movie Was "Panorama of the Sioux War" In 1862 an Indian war party raided settlers at Lake Shetek, Minnesota. John Stevens, a sign painter, depicted the bloodcurdling story on panels of a 260-foot roll of canvas. When these panels were unreeled under light, like a film, they produced an illusion of motion. Stevens, going on tour, showed his art to cross roads audiences at 50 cents a head. Two of his four panoramas survive. This one was lent, together with its hand-turned machinery, to American Processional by the Minnesota Historical Society. Author John Leeper here reads Stevens's own "beautiful oratorical explanation" to an audience in the Corcoran Gallery. Jefferson offered him a secretaryship. The artist, refusing, replied that he was "fully sen sible that [my] profession is frivolous, little useful to society, and unworthy ... . [but] the greatest motive I had or have for engag ing in . . . painting has been the wish of com memorating the great events of our country's Revolution." In that desire Trumbull succeeded; he be came the foremost painter of the Revolution. Generations of Americans have seen the war through Trumbull's one good eye (an injury cost him the sight of the other). Four of his large canvases adorn the rotunda of the United States Capitol. Trumbull did not paint the war through hearsay. Like Peale, he participated. Gen eral Washington was so impressed by Trum bull's skill in sketching certain British gun emplacements that he made him his aide. While the war was still going on, young Trumbull forsook his Army commission and, armed with a letter from Franklin, sought out West in London. He was just beginning his studies when the British arrested and banished him, apparently in retaliation for the execution of Maj. John Andr6 in America as a spy. Later Trumbull returned to West's London studio and there turned out a succession of American paintings, including a "Surrender of Cornwallis" (page 187). This painting, which shows the British marching between the vic torious French and Americans, is much smaller than the rotunda's heroic "Cornwallis." Garneray Preferred Sea to Studio The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S series repre sents the War of 1812 with "The Battle of Lake Erie" (page 189). This American vic tory, which drove the British from the Great Lakes, is remembered chiefly for Capt. Oliver Hazard Perry's terse report, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." Ambroise Louis Garneray, portrayer of the scene, was a Frenchman who as a boy of 13 gave up art study to follow the sea. Captured by the British in 1806, he was held captive nine years. He therefore could never have glimpsed the battle on Erie; in fact, he seems never to have seen America. Garneray, then, was not one of our "eyewitness" artists. Eventually returning to art, the Frenchman remained the experienced sailor, mindful of every nautical detail.