Friday, February 3, 2012

Was William T. Trego America’s Greatest Disabled Artist?


One of the biggest problems with lists is that with lists come labels. A list of African-American artists or women artists already sets them up as different (and perhaps less, somehow) than artists on another list. But sometimes lists also celebrate difference and how individuals overcome challenges and thrive in a society that can be less than totally accepting. Few people know the name of the disabled 19th century American artist William T. Trego, even though one of his paintings, The March to Valley Forge, December 16, 1777, remains a staple of American history textbooks looking to illustrate one of the great turning points of the American Revolutionary War. In So Bravely and So Well: The Life and Art of William T. Trego by Joseph P. Eckhardt, we learn Trego’s remarkable tale of overcoming the effects of childhood polio, which left his hands paralyzed, to attend art school and even study in Paris in his pursuit of a career as a painter, all during an era when the physically disabled were perceived as mentally disabled, too, and in which the idea of accessibility for all remained nearly a century in the future. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Was William T. Trego America’s Greatest Disabled Artist?"

[Image: William T. Trego (1858-1909), The Color Guard (French Dragoons Charging), 1890, oil on canvas, H. 35 x W. 45.75 inches, West Point Museum, United States MilitaLinkry Academy, West Point, New York.]

[Many thanks to the James A. Michener Art Museum for the image above and to the University of Pennsylvania Press for providing me with a review copy of So Bravely and So Well: The Life and Art of William T. Trego by Joseph P. Eckhardt.]