The privately held Becker Collection, now digitally archived at Boston College, contains approximately 650 previously unexhibited drawings by mid-19th-century American artist-reporters Joseph Becker and colleagues.

On assignment for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, the era’s leading illustrated periodical, these so-called Special Artists of the Civil War produced “first-hand” drawings that were sent to New York for translation into printed engravings. The sketches, many of which were never published, document in lively and specific ways compelling scenes on the battlefield and in camp; many are set in Virginia. Unlike the period’s laborious photography and other reproductive imagery, the Leslie artists’ eyewitness impressions reveal fresh aspects of America’s divisive trial. This special exhibition of some 90 drawings, presented in collaboration with the University of Richmond Museums, coincides with the country’s Civil War Sesquicentennial.


Traveling exhibition organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California. Drawings from the Becker Collection premiered at the McMullen Museum at Boston College in the exhibition “First Hand: Civil War Drawings from the Becker Collection,” which was organized by the McMullen Museum and underwritten by Boston College and Patrons of the McMullen Museum.


Judith Bookbinder, part-time faculty, and Sheila Gallagher, Assistant Professor, Fine Arts Department, Boston College

VMFA Coordinator
Dr. Sylvia Yount, Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art

University of Richmond Museum Coordinator
Richard Waller, Executive Director


“First Hand: Civil War Drawings from the Becker Collection,” edited by Judith Bookbinder and Sheila Gallagher; paperback; 274 pages with 118 color plates; $50

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