Sharon & Syd Martin
Additional support from
Marguerite Lenfest in Memory of Leonie Herpin
Penn Color, Inc.
The Pfundt Foundation
He was a painter who could barely hold a brush. He had to move his entire body to mix his colors. Yet William T. Trego (1858-1909) was a prize-winning artist with an international reputation, and his highly detailed and powerful battle scenes from the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War were widely exhibited and critically acclaimed during the late nineteenth century. Partially paralyzed by a childhood illness, Trego never experienced the horrors of war, but his uncanny ability to portray battle from the point of view of fighting men and horses was much admired.
The first-ever comprehensive exhibit of Trego’s work, So Bravely and So Well: The Life and Art of William T. Trego, was on view in the Michener’s Paton | Smith | Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries from June 4th to October 2nd, 2011. Presenting not only the art, but the life of William Trego, the exhibit placed the artist and his work in the context of his times. In addition to his paintings, sketches, drawings and sculpture, some personal effects of the artist, as well as authentic Civil War artifacts and photographs served to flesh out the story of Trego’s difficult, sometimes triumphant, and ultimately tragic career.
The exhibit was accompanied by the first ever full-length biography of the artist, and a fully illustrated online catalogue raisonné, both compiled by guest curator, Joseph P. Eckhardt. The book, bearing the same title as the exhibit, So Bravely and So Well,makes use of previously unexplored original source materials as well as studies of Trego’s surviving work. Recently discovered sketches, letters, and family stories have blended with the known facts to form a three-dimensional portrait of a remarkable man unwilling to be limited by his seeming limitations.
This, our third project associated with the Gemmill Fellow program, was made possible by the Warwick Foundation of Bucks County. It’s especially appropriate that the project occurred under the aegis of the Gemmill Fellow program, since Professor Eckhardt built on the pioneering work of Helen Gemmill, who was the first scholar to look seriously at the life and work of this underappreciated but highly gifted artist.
Joseph P. Eckhardt is an Emeritus Professor of History at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. His previous work, The King of the Movies; Film Pioneer, Siegmund Lubin, was published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press in 1998.