COLLECTION: Drawings

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A Cavalry Exercise

1852-1855
Origin: America, New York, West Point
Primary Support: 11 5/16 x 14 3/4in. (28.7 x 37.5cm)
Graphite on wove paper
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2007-34,2
A graphite line drawing of a horseman riding full gallop, brandishing a sword, and slashing at a rounded object set on top of a column, stump, or plinth.
Upon receipt in March 2007, this drawing was spot-glued to the back of 2007-34, 1. The two artworks appear to have no direct, original relationship but were discovered glued back-to-back within the overall collection of J. E. B. Stuart papers through which they descended. See "Provenance." The Alexander Gallery ("Vendor") framed and sold the two artworks together, using double glazing and front and back window mats to reveal both images. Upon acquisition by CWF, the two pictures were detached from one another and the modern frame supplied by the Alexander Gallery was discarded. As of 5-29-2007, acc. no. 2007-34, 2, is unframed.
Label:According to school files, the artist was a cadet in the class of 1855 at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he enrolled July 1, 1851. On July 1, 1855, Wheeler graduated and was promoted to Second Lieutenant of Dragoons.

The drawing shows a typical cavalry exercise of the time and one that, likely, Wheeler frequently witnessed at the school. Slicing and cutting at melons or other similar objects stuck on posts while riding past at a gallop was intended to increase the cadets' effectiveness in attacking from horseback.

Wheeler probably studied art under Professor Robert W. Weir (1803-1889), who taught the subject at West Point from 1834 to 1876. (Weir is also known for an impressive, oil-on-canvas portrait of Robert E. Lee [1807-1870], who was the superintendent at West Point during 1852-1855; the oil is owned by Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia). Weir emphasized that artists should paint what they saw and carry out their own research, admonitions that would have served his students well in many of their post-graduate careers. Whether topographical maps or sketches of enemy encampments, accuracy of representation was essential in the drawings and paintings that, for example, accompanied war reports, summarized reconnaissance missions, and laid the groundwork for ambitious engineering projects. A skilled artist could convey many objects, situations, and concepts that defied photography, especially at this early stage in the latter's development.
Provenance:2007-34, 1 and 2007-34, 2 were part of a larger collection of ephemera said to have been amassed by James Ewell Brown ("Jeb") Stuart (1833-1864) while a student at the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, class of 1854. The entire collection of ephemera was acquired by the Alexander Gallery, New York, NY, at an unknown date. An inventory of the collection, made by the Alexander Gallery, is in the object file.
At the time of the Alexander Gallery's acquisition of the collection, 2007-34, 1 and 2007-34, 2 were found to be glued back-to-back, even though no direct, original relationship between the two was --- or is --- known. The Alexander Gallery framed and sold to CWF the two artworks as it had found them, using double glazing and front and back window mats to reveal both images. Upon acquisition by CWF, the two pictures were detached from one another and the modern frame supplied by the Alexander Gallery was discarded. As of 5-29-2007, acc. no. 2007-34, 2, has not been reframed.



Mark(s):A watermark appears, upside down, in the upper left corner running parallel to the upper edge, the lettering fashioned in open, block letters 5/16-inches tall: "F. JOHANNOT [&?] AN[remainder cut off]." Note: The first letter of the surname appears to be a "J," not an "I." See Gravell in "Bibliography."
Inscription(s):A pencil inscription in upright script below the horse's rear feet appears to read: "Jas. Wheeler [L?]". In pencil in the lower right corner of the sheet is: "A19135", the meaning of which is unknown. Also see "Marks."