Washington museum shows War of 1812 not just "Star-Spangled Banner"

Sun Jul 1, 2012 8:07am EDT
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The War of 1812 may be the United States' forgotten conflict, but an unprecedented art museum exhibit shows that there was a lot more to it than the "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The wide-ranging show, "1812: A Nation Emerges" at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, brings together more than 100 paintings, sculptures, artifacts and documents to explain the little-known war and its deep impact on the infant United States.

The core of the treasures are scores of works from what curator Sidney Hart called "the Golden Age of Anglo-American portraiture," including a dozen pieces by early American master Gilbert Stuart.

"It's art telling history, that's a lot of what we do," Hart told Reuters on a tour of the exhibit, the first major show to tell the story of the war with artifacts from the United States, Britain, Ireland and Canada.

The exhibit opened 200 years almost to the day after the newly formed and fragile United States declared war on the British Empire, one of the mightiest powers of the age.

The David-and-Goliath match was a sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, where the main antagonists were France and Britain.

Americans resented interference by former colonial master Britain in their overseas trade, including seizure of ships and sailors, and British backing of Native American tribes against U.S. expansion.

FOUR-SIDED WAR   Continued...