Friday, January 10, 2014


Charles Parloe

Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite

Revd. Stonestreet

General Heintzelman

Oscar Turner

Capt. H. Moore

Samuel F.B. Morse

Marshall O. Roberts

William Sidney Mount

Revd. McGauron
Men of the Civil War era from the Brady Handy archive at the Library of Congress. Their faces and forms are presented with a name attached and conjectural dates. Back-stories exist in some cases, but many of these faces-with-names will never yield any more information than is offered by the physiognomies. As I study the traces left behind by their features after 150 years have passed, what I spontaneously perceive is prevarication, self-deception, habitual complacence.

For me, the prolonged mechanized slaughter enacted by this same generation of men engulfs them all. They become frauds by association, if not in fact  even the apparently "good" ones (preachers of social justice, altruistic teachers spreading benevolence, practitioners of the fine arts). People in the future will no doubt make similar broad undifferentiated judgments about the people of the present, including me  using the worst crimes of current-days culture as the collective measure of current-days character.

Better not to make such judgments, maybe. But if a viewer refrains from speculating about character then the Western tradition of individual portraiture dating back to the Renaissance loses most of its significance.