The Halt (The Drink of Water), 1864
Signed Th: Nast and dated 8/64 (lr)
Oil on canvas
26 1/8 x 36 inches
Private Collection, New York
Edward Eberstadt & Sons
Chicago, 1866 (cf. Harper's Weekly, June 30, 1866, Vol. X, No. 496, 1)
Picturing History: American Painting, 1770-1930 (circulated by the American Federation of Arts to the IBM Gallery of Science and Art; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Center for the Fine Arts, Miami; the Phoenix Art Museum, September 1993 - November 1994)
Morristown, New Jersey, Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, Thomas Nast & The Glorious Cause, February 4 - May 5, 1996
Harper's Weekly, June 30, 1866, Vol. X, No. 496, 1, illustrated (as The Halt)
The Chicago Tribune, as cited in Harper's Weekly, June 30, 1866, Vol. X, No. 496, 1
Harold Holzer, Thomas Nast & The Glorious Cause, Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, Morristown, New Jersey, 1996 (as The Halt)
Shortly after it was exhibited in Chicago in 1866, The Halt (also exhibited as The Drink of Water) by Thomas Nast was vividly described in The Chicago Tribune:
A pleasant farm-house, shaded with vines; a tired soldier, leaning upon his gun, taking a cup of water from the farmer's wife - the children looking on in youthful wonder; you can not see their faces, but you know how they look. A little farther on a soldier sitting down tantalizing a dog; a splendid distance and background, with a baggage-wagon and soldiers, beautifully drawn foliage, and delicious bits of sky. Such is Thomas Nast's Soldier's Halt. (The Chicago Tribune, as cited in Harper's Weekly, 30 June 1866, p. 1)
Dressed in a uniform identifying him as a member of the 1st Division of the VI Army Corps, the soldier wears what appears to be a New York State jacket, piped around the collar in sky blue, the branch color for infantry. His weapon appears to be an early model US martial percussion musket; weapons such as these were carried by members of the regular US Army Invalid Corps or Army Reserve Corps.
Today remembered as the father of the American political cartoon, Thomas Nast painted The Halt (The Drink of Water) at the age of twenty-four, while working as a battlefield artist and correspondent for Harper's Weekly during the Civil War. Careful to document details of the war, Nast filled sketchbooks with drawings of officers and enlisted men, and saved carte-de-visite photographs of camps and battlefields. First hired by Harper's Weekly in 1862, Nast drew several thousand cartoons for the magazine over a period of twenty-five years. By the end of the war, his sketches of life at the front and his political caricatures would make him a nationally known figure. A Radical Republican and an ardent supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause, he employed allegory and melodrama to convey his message. In September 1864, one month following the completion of The Halt (The Drink of Water), Nast enlisted as a private in the Seventh "G" Company of the Seventh Regiment of New York (7th Regt. NYNG); he was discharged in September 1871.
As The Halt (The Drink of Water) makes clear, Nast was a serious artist whose work reflects his studies with the history painter Theodore Kaufmann and at the school of the National Academy of Design. His canvas Departure of the Seventh Regiment for the Seat of War hangs in the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York City. Other Civil War subjects by Nast are included in the permanent collections of the Chicago Historical Society; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Union League Club, New York, N.Y.
We are most grateful to James McElhinney for his thorough analysis of the military dress so carefully rendered by Nast.
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