Though this exhibition is not opening until January 15, 2011, Civil War Drawings from the Becker Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is worth the heads up.

On assignment for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, the era’s leading illustrated periodical, these so-called Special Artists of the Civil War produced “first-hand” drawings that were sent to New York for translation into printed engravings. The sketches, many of which were never published, document in lively and specific ways compelling scenes on the battlefield and in camp; many are set in Virginia. Unlike the period’s laborious photography and other reproductive imagery, the Leslie artists’ eyewitness impressions reveal fresh aspects of America’s divisive trial. This special exhibition of some 90 drawings, presented in collaboration with the University of Richmond Museums, coincides with the country’s Civil War Sesquicentennial.

Some 650 of these drawings will be on display, all of which are drawn from the privately held Becker collection.

Civil War Drawings will run until April 3, 2011.

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