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.

Tip #2 – A work of art can be a take off point for research

Part of the beauty of art is that it can transport you to another place and time. A painting can tell a story that can help us learn about history. It can help you visualize a scene that you may have only read about in a book. Before the invention of cameras, artists recorded great historical events such as battles, explorations and events involving the church or royalty. Take a look at the painting, Battery, Forward! by William B. T. Trego. What do you see? What is this scene?

Battery, Forward! is an image of an imaginary battle, based in the time of the Civil War.  The subject of this painting is a battery of horse-drawn artillery in action. This large group of horse-drawn soldiers and weapons are moving forward into battle with their raised hands and swords. The faces of the horses seem to be painted in more detail than the faces of the soldiers. Why do you think the artist chose to do this? Look at the “driver” in the middle, it appears that he has been shot and has lost control of his horse. The soldier closest to him reaches out to grab the reins of the clearly startled horse to bring it under control.

Take a Closer Look

  • What do you see? Describe all the details you can find.
  • What is the time period for this painting? What clues can you find?
  • How are the people in the painting dressed? Who are they?
  • What is happening in the painting? If you were in this painting, what would you do?
  • If you were in this painting, what would you hear? What might the soldiers be saying?
  • How does this painting make you feel? Why?

What next? Listed below are a few suggestions of activities you can do. The possibilities are endless!