Darley's Soldiers

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Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888), Study for Thinking of Home, [1866]. Charcoal and graphite. Graphic Arts Darley collection GC007.

darley etching aas not princeton.jpgJohn Sartain (1808-1897) after a drawing by Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888), Thinking of Home. [1866]. Mezzotint and engraving. (c) American Antiquarian Society

For many years this sketch of a Union soldier leaning against his horse, holding a miniature portrait in his right hand, has been held at Princeton unidentified except for the artist’s name. Happily, we now know it is a sketch for a scene mezzotinted by John Sartain in 1866, honoring the Civil War soldiers returning home from war.

There are many other unidentified sketches in the Darley collection and hopefully, this is only the beginning.

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The Atlanta Constitution published an article in 1879 entitled Felix O.C.Darley. “‘Men with four names,’ said Dickens once to a friend, ‘are as useless as they would be with four legs.’ Darley comes under the ban thus pronounced and yet he is as useful, probably, as he could have been with a less number of titles. One of the most powerful draughtsmen of the age, his sketches of subjects from contemporaneous literature are unrivaled. His illustrations from Cooper and other novelist, and the drawings furnished by him for various standard periodicals, have stamped him as an artist of rare fidelity and unusual power.”

“His face is one of the most striking to be found in New York. A tremendous expanse of forehead, fringed with the silken hair, and lighted by a pair of deep-set eyes, that sparkle from their cavernous recess like two finely-set jewels of mammoth size and wondrous purity are the first of his features that catch the beholder’s vision … Mr. Darley is a hard worker, a companionable gentleman, and a hearty hater of anything like sham. That he may live to pencil, crayon, sketch, and design, in his own inimitable way many years to come, is the wish of all who have ever enjoyed the pleasure of his hearty friendship.”