Studying the Art of War, Fairfax Court-House, [Virginia]
Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 17.4 x 22.4 cm (6 7/8 x 8 13/16 in.)
Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Not on view
Under perfect atmospheric conditions and with receptive subjects, Gardner was able to harness the medium as a means of field portraiture, a tool that could memorialize—just as it did in a studio setting—the weary and the fresh, the snap and the pull of uniforms and accouterments, and the characteristic body language of men at war. Without a trace of irony, Major D. S. Ludlow (sitting on the ground) holds for the camera a copy of the 1862 translation of The Art of War, Antoine-Henri Jomini’s definitive treatise on warfare and military strategy, used as a standard reference by both Union and Confederate generals. Military historians today believe that Baron de Jomini’s outdated theories led to massive casualties during the Civil War.