Saturday, July 2, 2016
SPIRIT OF '76
Yankee Doodle, the original title of the painting by Archibald McNeal Willard, has long been known as The Spirit Of '76.
In 1836, Willard was born and reared in Bedford, Ohio, which is near Cleveland, Ohio. His family moved to Wellington, Ohio, in 1855. In 1875, Willard moved to Cleveland, where he set up a studio. Willard had very little formal training in art, and was mostly self-taught. Willard fought in the Civil War, having joined the 86th Ohio Infantry in 1863.
He painted The Spirit Of '76 in Wellington, Ohio in 1875, and he used his father, Baptist minister Samuel Willard, as the central figure. The painting was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 and it was purchased by General Devereaux from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Although the painting was roundly panned by critics, it became extraordinarily popular because of all the prints and calendars using the image. Willard painted several variations of the painting. The original painting is on display in Marblehead, Massachusetts, at Abbot Hall.
Willard also painted three murals which are still available to view at the Fayette County Court House in Washington Court House, Ohio. The murals are labeled: The Spirit Of Electricity, The Spirit Of Telegraphy, and The Spirit Of The Mail.