Opening a Nations Eyes

Nov 16,2015 | 14:14 EST By Bidsquare

Alexander Gardner was one of the real pioneers of early American photography. One-time manager of legendary lensman Matthew Bradys Washington salon, he was Brady’s chief photographer in the field during the early days of the Civil War.

Gardner managed the famous horse-drawn photographic laboratory and took many pictures attributed to Brady. He accompanied the Union troops on their marches, their camps and bivouacs, their battles, and on their many hasty retreats during those grim early days.

Alexander Gardner (left), and Lincoln at Antietam

In 1866 Gardner published his Sketch Book, recognized as the "first modern photo-essay” and the first published collection of Civil War photographs. Conceived by Gardner as a post-war memento, the 100 prints represent selections from the over 3,000 negatives taken during the Civil War by himself and associates.

Seminal photographs from this conflict include A Harvest of Death; Field Where General Reynolds Fell (below); Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter; and Sharpshooters Last Sleep. Exhibited in New York shortly after the battle, these images dramatically brought home the carnage of the battle, and shocked the rather abstract view of the war held by Americans.

Which brings us to Cowan’s Auctions’ American History sale, set down for Friday, November 20. Selling as Lot 41, Gardners Sketch Book is sure to cause a stir when it comes up for bidding. With no more than an estimated 200 copies ever made, Alexander Gardner’s ambitious 19th Century work is sure to end up a real collector’s prize.

Look now at the full catalog.