Friday, March 2, 2012

1857 Print of USS Minnesota

This is a print of the steam frigate USS Minnesota that is currently on display in the museum’s Civil War gallery.  The print shows the warship underway with Chinese junks in the background.  Minnesota’s historic journey to China in the 1850s more than likely inspired the print maker to put the Chinese ships in the picture. In 1857, Minnesota served as a diplomatic transport, delivering William Reed from Norfolk to Hong Kong to represent the United States in the five power negotiations with the Chinese Emperor.    Minnesota then travelled to several different Far East ports, where her magnificent design made an impression upon both Chinese and European naval officers.  During the Civil War, Minnesota served as the flagship of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and participated in the Battle of Hampton Roads and the Fort Fisher Campaign.
The New York-based print and map shop of William Endicott & Company produced this print.  It is notable for its vibrant use of color and detail that make the ship seem alive.  Started in the early 1800s by William's brother George, the company stayed in business well into the 1880s under a new generation of Endicotts.  The company gained a reputation for hiring and fostering young and talented artists, many of whom went on to make a name for themselves.   The Minnesota print was signed by an unknown artist with the last name of Lozier. Any information on Mr. Lozier would be welcomed!

 Despite their commercial success, art critics have had mixed reviews of the Endicott family’s body of work.  Critics acknowledged that the Endicotts had talent based on their ability to make a color image come alive.  However, as one modern art historian wrote, “Their work lacks real individuality.”  After looking at the print of USS Merrimack (see March 1 entry) produced by the print shop of L.H. Bradford, one could take the critic’s comment a step further and accuse the company of plagiarism. Notice, for example, that all the gun portals are open with guns deployed, just like Bradford’s Merrimack print.   

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