‘Perry’s Victory’: TMA exhibit celebrates 200th anniversary of Battle of Lake Erie.Written by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Toledo Museum of Art’s (TMA) newest exhibit combines artwork, historical artifacts and multimedia displays to help visitors mark the 200th anniversary of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous War of 1812 naval victory.
“Perry’s Victory: The Battle of Lake Erie” opened Aug. 9 and runs through Nov. 10. Admission is free.
Highlights include “Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie,” a 5-foot-by-8-foot oil painting by noted maritime artist Thomas Birch; a portrait of Perry by Gilbert Stuart from TMA’s collection; and one of six known copies of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, said curator Edward Hill, special projects assistant with the chief curator’s office.
“We have historical items as well as art, so it’s kind of a mixture of history and art,” Hill said.
Also on display are Perry’s Naval commission signed by President James Madison, sketches of the Treaty of Ghent signers, commemorative items and more. Birch started his painting within weeks of the battle, Hill said.
“News of the battle had traveled to the East Coast and people were excited to understand what had happened,” Hill said. “It’s really one of the most monumental paintings of the battle that exists. It’s a very accurate depiction of a particular moment of the battle.”
Many artists, including Birch, wrote to Perry for help with accuracy. Perry answered some requests, but it’s unclear if he wrote back to Birch, Hill said.
Perry himself owned a copy of one set of prints on display in the exhibit, Hill said.
“After his death and after his wife’s death, it was noted that they were in their own collection, so that’s pretty exciting to see a pair of prints he actually owned of the battle,” Hill said.
In the decades following the war, artistic focus shifted from accuracy to heroism and patriotism, Hill said.
“More toward the latter part of the 19th century, the 1870s, 1880s, that idea of accuracy almost disappears,” Hill said. “Now they are more concerned with patriotism, the idea of heroes, the idea of a republic having lasted over 100 years. So you see kind of an interesting shift in the depiction of the battle.”
Although some aspects became less accurate, depictions of sailors started to become more accurate, Hill said. Fifteen to 20 percent of the battle’s participants were African-American, but earlier paintings show few if any black faces, he said.
“I don’t know if it’s because it’s post-Civil War, but it’s only after you get to the later part of the 19th century that you see that happening,” Hill said. “It’s interesting. They changed the image from being less accurate in some respects … but now they show African-Americans so they are correct in that way.”
Kelly Fritz Garrow, TMA’s director of communications, said people are looking forward to the exhibit.
“This show has generated a lot of buzz and excitement because obviously we’re so close to the place where the battle took place,” Garrow said.
TMA hosted a similar anniversary exhibit in 1913 to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle. Several of the pieces in the current exhibit were also at that exhibition, including “Battle of Lake Erie,” a painting by Toledo artist Carlton T. Chapman. The Stuart portrait was also there, although not owned by TMA at the time.
The Birch painting, on loan from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, is in Toledo for the first time.
“That was the one major painting the museum did not get in 1913,” Hill said.
Other pieces in the show were borrowed from the University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library, the Library of Congress, private collections and more.
At the Battle of Lake Erie, which took place Sept. 10, 1813, Perry’s men captured a fleet of British vessels, gaining control of Lake Erie’s transportation routes to the United States.
Upcoming related events include:
- 7 p.m. Aug. 16: Gallery talk with Hill. Free.
- 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 10: Perry’s Victory Party. Nautical attire encouraged. Featuring music, photo booth, light snacks and cash bar. Museum members free; nonmembers $20.
- 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13: “Native Americans in the War of 1812,” presented by Jamie Oxendine of the Black Swamp Intertribal Foundation. Free.
- 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11: “Consequences of the Battle of Lake Erie,” presented by David Skaggs, Bowling Green State University professor emeritus of history and retired U.S. Army Reserve officer. Free.
- 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8: Nineteenth-century music commemorating war heroes, performed by Christopher Scholl, associate professor of voice at Bowling Green State University, and accompanied by TMA’s piano dating from around 1840. Free.
- Children 10 and younger: Make your own tall ships using a variety of materials. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 15 and 3:30-8 p.m. Aug. 16. Free.
The museum is located at 2445 Monroe St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and closed Mondays.
For more information, visit toledomuseum.org.