Charles Hoffbauer: "Painter of Historical Murals" is a visual display detailing the process by which Charles Hoffbauer produced the Memorial Military Murals and the three-year effort to restore them.
In 1894, Charles Broadway Rouss, a Virginia Confederate veteran turned wealthy New York businessman, pledged $100,000 toward the creation of a memorial building to house relics and records of the Confederate cause. He challenged Confederate veteran groups to match his pledge. These groups formed the Confederate Memorial Association to oversee the construction of the Confederate Memorial Institute (Battle Abbey).
I have for several years had the ambitious desire to have a collection of mural paintings similar to those to be found in the great gallery at Versailles, but I hardly dared to hope that my dream would be realized.
J. Taylor Ellyson, President of the Confederate Memorial Association, September 27, 1912
J. Taylor Ellyson, a civil leader in Virginia, secured a generous gift of $20,000 from Thomas Fortune Ryan, a native Virginian and the nation's tenth wealthiest man, for the creation of a series of memorial murals.
In January 1913, French artist Charles Hoffbauer began work on the Memorial Military Murals. Work progressed steadily on the murals, and they were nearly completed in the summer of 1914. World War I intervened, however, and Hoffbauer returned to France, where he enlisted in the Army. Hoffbauer returned to Richmond in early 1919 to complete the murals. His work was completed in October 1920 and unveiled in January 1921 to critical acclaim.
In 2011, the Virginia Historical Society began conservation work on the Memorial Military Murals with funding received from Save America's Treasures, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Important cleaning and conservation work began in June 2011 and was completed in June 2014. Additional work to renovate the gallery space began in June 2014 and was completed in May 2015.
Charles Hoffbauer created many small clay and wood models and sculptural maquettes to help develop and refine his mural compositions. He arranged these small model dioramas in a way that helped him visualize his subject matter and better define the story he was attempting to present. The Virginia Historical Society is fortunate to have many of Hoffbauer's original modes in its collection.
Pastel sketch by Charles Hoffbauer of Robert E. Lee on Traveller
Charles Hoffbauer completed hundreds of sketches and renderings of his subjects in charcoal and pencil as well as ink, crayon, watercolor, and pastel. He transferred and enlarged the images from his sketches to the wall by using a grid system, which enabled him to systematically transfer images from a small square to a larger corresponding square on the final mural surface.