James Longacre Wood
Academic painting in Europe and America during the first half of the 19th century was heavily influenced by grand historical themes. This subject matter has never appealed to me. Yet this 1898 painting, entitled On Guard Outside Washington’s Door, is in a sense a history painting. It depicts an incident during the Revolutionary War—note the recently inflicted cannonball hole in the door with wood debris on the floor. James Wood studied for several years with Thomas Eakins at the PAFA and is listed as one of the students who petitioned the board of the academy to reinstate Eakins after his heated dismissal in 1886. Wood went on to study with Jean-Léon Gérôme in Paris. This riveting image reflects the teaching of both masters and is what instantly appealed to me when I saw it in a Schwarz Gallery catalogue in 1984. Having never seen an example by this exceptionally rare artist, I rolled the dice and relied on Robbie Schwarz’s description. He did not disappoint me.