"Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War" Special Exhibition Opens Oct. 16 at the Museum of the American RevolutionSept. 13, 2021
Exhibition Brings Together More than 45 Paintings by Nationally Renowned Historical Artist Don Troiani Alongside Historic Artifacts
Troiani’s New “Brave Men as Ever Fought” Painting Will Be Featured
Without the benefit of photography, the Revolutionary War can be difficult to envision. But what did the war actually look like? The Museum of the American Revolution’s upcoming special exhibition Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War will bring together – for the first time in public – more than 45 original paintings by nationally renowned historical artist Don Troiani. Based on painstaking research, the paintings capture the drama and reality of life on the march, in camp, and in battle. The exhibition will run from October 16, 2021 – September 5, 2022.
Connecticut-based artist Don Troiani (b.1949) has dedicated much of his artistic career to imagining and recreating what the Revolutionary War truly looked like. His use of primary sources, archaeology, original artifacts, and other research methods imbues his paintings with an almost photographic-quality realism. Using a masterful combination of “artistry and accuracy” (New York Times), Troiani’s paintings demonstrate his extraordinary combination of historical research, technical skill, and artistic drama. Liberty will be the first major exhibition of his original artwork.
“We are thrilled to be able to present this exhibition of the extraordinary, research-based works of Don Troiani,” said Matthew Skic, Curator of Exhibitions for the Museum. “Troiani’s paintings capture the raw emotions of the women and men caught up in war, allowing us an authentic and dramatic glimpse into the past and helping us grasp the human struggle of the American Revolution. The exhibition continues the Museum’s ongoing effort to make the compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events of the American Revolution real for modern-day audiences.”
The special exhibition will pair Troiani’s works of art with artifacts that inspired or appear in his paintings and illuminate the story of each scene. The 40 objects on display will include weapons, military equipment, textiles, manuscripts, and more, which are on loan from Troiani’s personal collection, the Museum’s collection, and other lenders. Through these pairings, the exhibition will plunge visitors into some of the most pivotal moments of America’s fight for independence, from the Battles of Lexington and Concord to the victory at Yorktown.
Visitors will encounter rare objects such as a bear-fur cap worn by a British Army grenadier, pieces of the Hessian flags that General Washington’s army captured at the Battle of Trenton, and a rifle made in 1775 by Moravian gunsmith Christian Oerter of Pennsylvania. The exhibit will also feature an original copy of Paul Revere’s famous engraving of the Boston Massacre, on loan from the Dietrich American Foundation. Revere’s engraving will be displayed next to Troiani’s 2017 painting of the Boston Massacre.
“It is my hope that my paintings help people today grasp the significance of the Revolutionary struggles of the people who lived 250 years ago, whose brave actions continue to shape our lives,” said Don Troiani. “I cannot think of a better institution than the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia to partner with to publicly display, for the first time, my original paintings of the Revolutionary War.”
Featured in the exhibition will be Troiani’s recent painting, “Brave Men as Ever Fought,” commissioned by the Museum and funded by the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail of the National Park Service. This painting, which was unveiled on Sept. 2 and is currently on display at The African American Museum in Philadelphia through Oct. 3, captures the moment when 15-year-old African American sailor and Philadelphian James Forten witnesses Black and Native American troops in the ranks of the Continental Army as they marched past Independence Hall on their way to eventual victory at Yorktown. Forten later called those soldiers “as brave Men as ever fought.”
As part of the Museum’s commitment to accessibility, the exhibition will include raised tactile images of three of Troiani’s paintings for use by guests with visual disabilities, created and donated by Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired, as well as replica handling objects.
Key Paintings on Display:
- The Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770. Troiani’s painting of the Boston Massacre shows the cold March night from the perspective of the crowd behind the British soldiers and Captain Thomas Preston. Troiani studied eyewitness descriptions of the event and court records from the trial of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre to create this painting. Painted by Don Troiani, Southbury, Connecticut, 2017, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection.
- Battle of Bunker Hill. Although it was largely fought on Breed’s Hill, the battle on June 17, 1775, became known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. This painting captures the nervous anticipation of the New Englanders who defended the earthen redoubt on Breed’s Hill as they stared down at 2,000 redcoats advancing uphill towards the redoubt. Painted by Don Troiani Southbury, Connecticut, 2000, Oil on Canvas, On Loan from Mrs. Richard Ulbrich.
- Margaret Corbin, Fort Washington. Twenty-five-year-old Margaret Corbin witnessed the death of her husband, John, at the Battle of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island on November 16, 1776. As Hessian soldiers attacked, the young woman took her husband’s position at a cannon and continued to fight. Shown in the painting, Corbin fell wounded when three grapeshot hit her, injuring her arm, jaw, and chest. She survived her wounds and became the first woman military pensioner of the United States. Corbin is buried on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Painted by Don Troiani, Southbury, Connecticut, 2011, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection.
- Victory or Death, Advance on Trenton. After a daring Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey, General Washington’s army marched through snow, sleet, and wind to attack a Hessian garrison at Trenton on December 26, 1776. This painting captures the moment the Continental Army reached the outskirts of the town. Captain Alexander Hamilton and his New York artillery company are visible in the foreground. Painted by Don Troiani, Southbury, Connecticut, 2014, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection.
- The Oneida at the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777. At the Battle of Oriskany, in New York, warriors of the Oneida Nation, who allied themselves with the United States, battled against fellow people of the Haudenosaunee- Seneca, Cayuga, and Mohawk allies of the British. In this painting, Oneida war captain Thawengarakwen (Honyery Doxtater) and his wife Tyonajanegen (Two Kettles Together) are shown fighting in the woods alongside the militia of Tryon County, New York. Painted by Don Troiani, Southbury, Connecticut, 2005, Oil on Canvas, Oneida Indian Nation.
- The Battle of Kings Mountain, October 7, 1780. At Kings Mountain, South Carolina, Revolutionary militiamen crushed British Army Major Ferguson’s force of Loyalists and halted British plans to control the South. In this painting, the militiamen from the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia, many armed with rifles, are shown dealing the final blow to Ferguson’s men at Kings Mountain. Loyalist support for the British in the Carolina backcountry collapsed following the decisive Revolutionary victory. Painted by Don Troiani, Southbury, Connecticut, 2006, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection.
- Brave Men as Ever Fought. In this painting, 15-year-old African American sailor James Forten looks on as Black and Native troops in the ranks of the Continental Army, on their way to Yorktown, Virginia, march west through Philadelphia on September 2, 1781. Painted by Don Troiani, Southbury, Connecticut, 2020, Oil on Canvas, Museum of the American Revolution, Funded by the National Park Service Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail.
- Artillery of Independence, Siege of Yorktown, Virginia, October 9, 1781. This painting shows General George Washington firing the first American cannon at the Siege of Yorktown as generals Lafayette, Steuben, and Knox look on. The resulting artillery barrage from 155 French and American howitzers, cannons, and mortars continued for the next 11 days and forced British General Cornwallis to surrender his army. Painted by Don Troiani, Southbury, Connecticut, 2013, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection.
Special Programming & Additional Resources:
- Programs and Events: The exhibition will come to life with a rich slate of special events and daily programs, including family-friendly activities, as well as evening speakers and events exploring the historic and contemporary relevance of the exhibition. For upcoming events, visit www.amrevmuseum.org/at-the-museum/events.
- Theatrical Performance: Accompanying the exhibition, an original first-person theatrical performance will dramatize the experiences of free Black Philadelphian James Forten, who joined a privateer ship to serve during the Revolutionary War and later became a prominent businessperson and abolitionist. The performance will take place on weekends in the Alan B. Miller Theater.
- Family Guide: Families can enjoy the special exhibition with a printed family guide full of games and activities, along with a scavenger hunt for younger visitors. Hands-on activities for visitors to the exhibition will include try-on clothing and a James Forten Discovery Cart.
- Educator Resources: For students and teachers, virtual distance learning programs and teacher professional development opportunities focusing on this story will be available later this year. A teacher resource guide will debut in early 2022.
- Virtual Tour: A virtual version of the exhibition will be made available to digital explorers from around the world through a free 360-degree virtual tour, which is scheduled to launch in early 2022 and will remain permanently available.
- Audio Tour: A free audio tour (with transcriptions) is available for use on your mobile device. Sanitized hand-held audio devices are available for rental for $5 per device ($3 for Museum Members).
- Guided Tours: Thirty-minute guided tours are available through Group Sales for private bookings. To book, contact email@example.com or call 215.579.3623.
- Exhibition Catalog: A hardcover catalog of the exhibit will be available beginning Oct. 1, 2021 (it is now available for pre-order). It will be available for purchase for $29.95 in the Museum’s shop onsite and online.
The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. with enhanced health and safety protocols. Masks are required for all visitors ages 5 and up, regardless of vaccination status. The 5,000 square-foot exhibition will be located in the Museum’s first-floor Patriots Gallery.
The exhibition is included with regular Museum admission. Tickets can be purchased at www.amrevmuseum.org, by calling 215.253.6731, or at the front desk. Museum tickets are $21 for adults ($19 online); $18 for seniors, students, and active or retired military; and $13 for children ages 6 and up. Children ages 5 and under are free. All tickets are valid for two consecutive days. Group tickets for parties of 15 or more are available for a reduced price by calling 267.579.3623. Memberships are also available online or by calling 215.454.2030.
Liberty is presented by Bank of America. Comcast NBCUniversal is the exhibition’s education sponsor. Additional support is provided by Pritzker Military Foundation on behalf of Pritzker Military Museum & Library, Lanny and Ann Patten, NJM Insurance Group, State Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania, Cynthia Sweeney, and Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail of the National Park Service. In-kind support provided by Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired.
About Don Troiani
Don Troiani is a traditional academic realist painter who is well known for his commitment to accuracy in his historical and military paintings, primarily of the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. He was born in New York City in 1949 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and The Art Students League of New York between 1967 and 1971. Troiani owns one of the great private artifact study collections of Civil War, War of 1812, Revolutionary War, and World War II uniforms, equipage, insignia, and weapons, which he calls on to add the unique dimension of realism for which he has become renown. He is also an expert researcher with an expansive personal military library of over 3,000 volumes.
Troiani served as consultant on Civil War uniforms and equipage for the feature film “Cold Mountain” starring Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, and Jude Law. He has been a military/historical advisor on “Civil War Journal” and the miniseries “The American Revolution” by A&E, and HISTORY channel’s “Missing Reward,” “Incurable Collector,” and “Hunt for Amazing Treasures.” His artifacts have been loaned for exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, Delaware Historical Society, Connecticut Museum of History, The West Point Museum, Virginia Historical Society, and the National Park Service Visitor’s Center in Gettysburg, PA, among others. Troiani's artwork has appeared in many television productions on the A&E Military and Discovery channels, NBC, CNN, and FOX. The most recent use of his work is in the feature film “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.”
About Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum of the American Revolution uncovers and shares compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government. Through the Museum’s unmatched collection, immersive galleries, powerful theater experiences, and interactive elements, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for how this nation came to be and feel inspired to consider their role in ensuring that the promise of the American Revolution endures. Located just steps away from Independence Hall, the Museum serves as a portal to the region’s many Revolutionary sites, sparking interest, providing context, and encouraging exploration. The Museum, which opened on April 19, 2017, is a private, non-profit, and non-partisan organization. For more information, visit www.AmRevMuseum.org or call 877.740.1776.