The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995 Page: 499
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NORMAN D. BROWN, Editor
Sam Chamberlain's Mexican War: The San Jacinto Museum of History Paintings. By
William H. Goetzmann. (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1993.
Pp. xii+2o7. Acknowledgments, foreword, introduction, notes, maps, color
plates, index. ISBN 0-87611-131-2. $49.95.)
Sam Chamberlain was a fascinating character, and one of the most important
artists to document the Mexican-American War. More than one hundred and
sixty of his watercolor and pencil drawings of the war are the basis of a splendid
new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian William H. Goetzmann. These im-
ages in the San Jacinto Museum of History have long been known to scholars,
but never before reproduced in such superb color plates. Goetzmann's book will
be a welcome addition to historians' and art historians' knowledge of this impor-
tant conflict. No official account equals the detail and immediacy of Chamber-
lain's provocative, humorous, and occasionally ribald images.
Chamberlain's manuscript "My Confession: Recollections of a Rogue" is one
source of Goetzmann's perceptive and detailed text. Goetzmann weaves a com-
pelling connection between Chamberlain's text and the images he painted, al-
ways illuminating the historical and cultural context with his wide-ranging
knowledge of the events Chamberlain described and painted. The core of the
book is Chamberlain's images of the Battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista.
These are painted in a style that might now be termed "folk art," but to the eye
of the scholar receptive to images that reflect less the ideology of official, elite
culture, Chamberlain's paintings are a remarkable window into an overlooked
aspect of his period. Many are accompanied by useful annotations. While the re-
productions and Goetzmann's text alone would be more than sufficient to rec-
ommend this book, the detailed and meaty notes will be an invaluable resource
to scholars and students. Goetzmann's enthusiasm and the considerable detec-
tive work he has done in tracking down Chamberlain's adventures and lost
works make for fascinating and always compelling reading. As Goetzmann readi-
ly admits, Chamberlain's account is hardly complete. This book, and particularly
the notes, provide important leads for future scholarly investigations, just as
Robert Taft's seminal book Artists and Illustrators of the Old West did for earlier
generations of students. Cultural historians will want to investigate the consump-
tion of Chamberlain's pictures, identifying the audiences he had in mind and
the reception of his representations. This book is only the first phase of a two-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995, periodical, 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/m1/555/: accessed April 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.