Concord Welcomes the Return of Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts’
Memories of Antietam
Concord, Massachusetts is well known for its rich history and its citizens for their commitment to historical preservation. On April 6 of this year, a lesser known aspect of Concord’s history will be celebrated by a Town-wide reception to be held at Concord’s Town House along with a special exhibition at the Concord Art Association honoring the monumental painting, Memories of Antietam by artist Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts.
Memories of Antietam, which has hung in the large Hearing Room of Concord’s Town House for nearly 40 years, has undergone extensive conservation to remove years of discolored varnish and correct for paint loss. The once nearly opaque surface of the painting now comes alive after months of painstaking work by conservators of the Williamstown Art Conservation Laboratory. The work is a group portrait of Civil War veterans captured on canvas by Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts, a distinguished American artist and founder of the Concord Art Association.
The painting is one of the best visual records that remain of the 400 Concordians who fought in the Civil War, 43 of whom died. It depicts 16 veterans reviewing a map of the infamous Battle of Antietam, which remains today, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history with 22,717 dead, wounded or missing. This group portrait was offered to the Town as a gift in 1928 by the Concord Art Association and accepted by vote at the Town Meeting of 1929. ~In conjunction with the painting’s return, the Concord Art Association is presenting a special exhibition~of Robert’s artistic career, A Breathing Bigness: Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts’ Life and Work, as well as a self-guided tour of other Robert’s paintings located in Concord. The exhibition will be on view from March 21 to May 5.
Funding for the conservation of Memories of Antietam was provided by the Community Preservation Fund of the Town of Concord. The project was spearheaded by Concord citizens Melissa Saalfield and Rebecca Purcell and represents the culmination of many years of effort on their part. Ten years ago, they sought bids to conserve the painting but were daunted by the cost. With the passage of the Community Preservation Act, the two realized a possible funding source. In 2011 their grant proposal for $47,000 was approved by the Town’s Community Preservation Committee to cover conservation, shipping and installation costs.
The special Town House reception will be held from 4:30 to 6 pm. Special guest speaker will be Jayne Gordon, Director of Public Programs for the Massachusetts Historical Society. The reception is open to all; however, organizers Saalfield and Purcell have made a special effort to locate and invite descendants of the veteran soldiers portrayed in the painting. They expect guests from as far away as Utah. At 6 pm, all are invited to go to the Concord Art Association at 37 Lexington Road to view other paintings by Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts, including a preliminary sketch for Memories of Antietam, and watch a video about her life and work.
For more information, please contact Melissa Saalfield 508 517 4914, Rebecca Purcell 978 369 5961 or Lili Ott at the Concord Art Association, 978 369 2578.