Cost of Revolution

Past Exhibition: Cost of Revolution

Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier

September 28, 2019 through March 17, 2020

Cost of Rev first look

What can a life tell us about an era?

Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier followed the untold story of Irish soldier and artist Richard St. George, whose personal trauma and untimely death provide a window into the entangled histories of the American Revolution of 1776 and the Irish Revolution of 1798. The art he created and commissioned provides a unique perspective of the physical and emotional costs of these revolutionary moments.

Richard St. George joined the British Army and donned a red coat to fight against the American “rebels” in 1776. Over the next twenty years, St. George survived a severe head wound at the Battle of Germantown, mourned over the tragic death of his wife, and saw the rule of kings and of gentlemen like himself violently challenged on two continents. Along the way, he made sketches, published cartoons, and commissioned portraits and paintings to document his experiences and emotions. In 1798, he stood in opposition to the growing Irish Revolution and was killed by his tenants.

As a result of detective work by the Museum’s curators, the art and artifacts from St. George’s life and death were reunited in Philadelphia from Ireland, England, Australia, and the United States to tell the story. The Cost of Revolution exhibition catalog is available for purchase in the Museum Shop in-store and online.

Martin Myrone: From Gainsborough to Gothic Nightmares

Tate Britain senior curator Dr. Martin Myrone explores the extraordinary life and art of Richard St. George in its art historical context in his talk "From Gainsborough to Gothic Nightmares: Art History in Cost of Revolution" at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia in March 2020.

The Museum of the American Revolution is uniquely connected to the story of Richard St. George for two reasons. First, the Museum is in Philadelphia, the place where St. George received his life-changing head wound in 1777. Second, the Museum owns two paintings of the battles of Paoli and Germantown, made by Italian artist Xavier della Gatta in 1782, that Richard St. George helped create based on his eyewitness testimony and the sketches he made on campaign in America. St. George had himself depicted in the Germantown painting being carried from the battlefield after his wounding. 

Cost of Revolution was the Museum of the American Revolution’s first international loan exhibition. Over 100 artifacts and works of art were on display (some for the first time) from museums and private collectors in Ireland, England, Australia, and the United States. The exhibition included one of the richest collections of artifacts documenting Ireland’s 18th-century revolutionary history and war for independence ever displayed in Philadelphia. British Army weaponry, insignia, portraits, and manuscripts from the American Revolutionary War were also on exhibit.  

Special Exhibition Programs

Programming related to Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier throughout its run featured a 30-minute theatrical performance, 10-minute in-gallery talks, tableau talks, neighborhood walking tours, and early access tours. In the performance, commissioned from Philadelphia playwright Chris Braak, visitors met Richard St. George as he reflected on the trouble brewing in Ireland, his youthful adventures, personal loss, and what his life can tell us about an era of revolutions. Richard St. George was portrayed by Seth Reichgott and Museum educator Patrick Poole.

Cost of Revolution Catalog

The Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier exhibition catalog, written by lead curator of the exhibition, Museum Associate Curator Matthew Skic, is available for purchase in the Museum Shop in-store and online.

With thanks to:

Kazie and John C. Harvey
Irish Georgian Society
Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme
Richard Brown and Mary Jo Otsea
Irish American Business Chamber and Network
The Society of St. George – Philadelphia
Welfare Foundation
Additional Support Provided By:
Peter Mark
James S. and Sally Studdiford