The End of the Charge, 1889
Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Archive
Vital StatisticsAlternate title: Running the Gauntlet; Fin de la charge de la brigade de von Bredow à Rezonville
Oil on canvas, 48 x 71 inches
Signed and dated, ll: "W. T. Trego 1890"
Current location unknown
CommentaryThe painting was inspired by a passage in the book Français & Allemands: histoire anecdotique de la guerre de 1870–1871, by Dick de Lonlay, published in Paris while Trego studied there. The passage described a suicidal attack by German cavalry units against French artillery during the battle of Rezonville in the Franco-Prussian War. A quote from de Lonlay’s work was published in the catalogues that accompanied the exhibition of the painting in Paris and later in Philadelphia. At the 1890 Paris Salon, the painting attracted the attention of a Parisian writer who suggested that Trego was the alter ego of the French military painter Édouard Detaille.
After 1891 the painting was stored at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as a favor to the artist, and it remained there after his death. In 1951 PAFA sent it to Freeman’s Auction in Philadelphia, where it sold on 5 February 1951 for $80. A black-and-white 8 x 10 photograph was retained by PAFA in their archives. Based on the photograph, two items in the painting seem especially noteworthy. In the far left background is a riderless horse very reminiscent of the one that appears in the painting The War Horse done by the artist’s father, Jonathan K. Trego, c. 1880. In the right foreground can be seen two of the German princes—Henry and Waldemar—also seen in Trego’s 1883 work The Three Princes. The “heroic” white horse carrying a French cuirassier into the fray appears to look at us with a confident, serene expression that is in contrast to the frenzy of the German horses rearing in alarm. Here, as in so many of Trego’s works, the animals perform symbolic roles, signaling the emotions and circumstances of the human combatants. However, both the white horse and its rider seem intended by the artist to emphasize the gloire of battle in a way that has no counterpart in any of his Civil War paintings.
ProvenanceTrego deposited this painting with the Pennsylvania Academy in 1890 and except for several trips out to exhibitions, the canvas remained there even after his death in 1909. Why his sister did not claim this and the other paintings he had stored at PAFA is unclear. In 1951 the academy decided to dispose of the work and sent it to Freeman's Auction gallery in Philadelphia where, on the 5th of February, it was sold for eighty dollars. No record survives of this sale and the fate of this large and important painting is unknown.
ExhibitionsParis, France, 1890: shown as “Fin de la charge . . .,” at the Paris Salon of 1890
Philadelphia, 1891: shown as “Running the Gauntlet” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Georgia, 1895: shown as
“Running the Gauntlet” at the Cotton States and International
Exposition, September 18–December 31, 1895
Philadelphia, 1909, as part of a small memorial exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
ReferenceLe Catalogue du Salon des Artistes Français de 1890, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
Catalogue of the Sixty-first Annual Exhibition, January 29-March 7, 1891, second edition
Letter of Wm. T. Trego to Mr. Pierce, Secy., 22 June 1895, PAFA Archives
“…a terrific hand-to-hand encounter, the culmination of the action taking place in the immediate foreground. In its composition, small isolated groups and single figures that dot the crest of the hill over which the troops are pouring, and which hides the distant landscape, are particularly dramatic.” Henry J. Thouron, Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 1909.