The Memorial Military Murals by Charles Hoffbauer are an American treasure because they are one of the best examples of how elements of the United States population overcame the pain and destruction of our bloodiest conflict.
Dr. Paul Levengood, VHS President and CEO
French mural artist Charles Hoffbauer was commissioned by the Confederate Memorial Association in 1914 to paint a series of Civil War murals, known as the Memorial Military Murals, for the newly constructed Battle Abbey. With the outbreak of World War I, Hoffbauer interrupted his labors and returned to his native France, leaving his project half completed. He came back after the war only to obliterate his earlier work, explaining that his front-line experiences had radically changed his view of war. Hoffbauer altered his plans for the murals to depict the more violent, bloody reality of war. The murals were unveiled in January 1921. Today, his work stands untouched. The murals follow the changing seasons and include the Spring Mural, the Summer Mural, the Autumn Mural, and the Winter Mural.
French artist Charles Hoffbauer, who later worked for Walt Disney Studios in animation, left hundreds of pastel, watercolor, oil, and pencil sketches on paper and canvas, as well as photographs and clay models, he used to create his famous murals, The Four Seasons of the Confederacy.
These murals are an example of how former Confederates, in the wake of their defeat in the American Civil War, created a mythology to overcome the pain and destruction of the country's bloodiest conflict. The murals are a preeminent visual artistic symbol of what has come to be known as the "Lost Cause." With the exception of the cycloramas at Gettysburg and at Grant Park in Atlanta, there are few large-scale pieces of Civil War artwork on public view.
Important cleaning and conservation work is currently underway on these murals. Hoffbauer's murals were painted directly onto canvas that had been glued to plaster walls. In numerous areas, the paint is not only flaking but also the canvas is detaching from the wall. Dirt, dust, and exhaust fumes from the heating system in place 100 years ago have had almost a century to obscure once bright colors.