A broad overview of the American Revolution’s causes and course, paired to select works from a renowned and prolific history painter.
Axelrod has written several well-received studies in American history for adults (Lost Destiny, 2015, etc.), but though he covers the main events here, he too often resorts to simplistic claims like “The Declaration of Independence said that everyone is ‘created equal.’ For this reason, the Continental Congress decided to separate from Britain.” He does draw attention to elements in the accompanying oils, which are sometimes action scenes but more often formal portraits or reconstructions of significant moments. Künstler paints with absorbing realism and attention to period accuracy—sometimes to the extent that the narrative content plays second fiddle to the close focus on exact details of uniforms and settings. His scenes are not always shown to best effect here either, as portions of the larger illustrations vanish into gutters, and some suffer from the reproduction. The artist is best known for his Civil War paintings, a relative few of which are presented in the co-published The Civil War: 1861-1865 with a scanty but reasonably coherent text by James I. Robertson Jr. (Civil War! America Becomes One Nation, 1992). Closing timelines and lists of key figures in both volumes include some additional details.
Students of American history who are not familiar with the artist’s work can find these paintings elsewhere but will appreciate the showcase—more, likely, than they do the sketchy narrative accounts. (Nonfiction. 10-12)