Historic Civil War paintings return to State Capitol

After a lot of controversy, a series of Civil War paintings returned to the State Capitol on Friday.

At one point, Governor Mark Dayton questioned whether the historical society could find art that better reflected the state's 150 years of history. But the society decided in order to retain the building's historic integrity, the paintings needed to return to the Capitol.

Inside one of the state's most important rooms, the governor’s reception room, curators are re-hanging the state's most important stories.

"When the room was designed by Cass Gilbert, it included a series of paintings, a cycle of six paintings that documented Minnesota's involvement in the Civil War,” said Brian Szott with the Minnesota Historical Society. “This is just 50 years after the Civil War and this was a documentation of their involvement and heroism. Six paintings will be returning to their original location." 

The paintings were all commissioned by Cass Gilbert. They include the Battle of Nashville, the Fourth Minnesota Regiment entering Vicksburg, the Second Minnesota Regiment at Missionary Ridge, and the Battle of Gettysburg. The paintings were all removed from the Capitol and restored during the Capitol Renovation Project.

This is the first time the public will be able to see them in the Capitol in nearly two years.

"Very painstaking process, because while they look to be the same size, there is a lot of custom work involved with each location,” said Szott. “They sit back into a niche and then are framed out. So, it's ah, it's a process that has to be done exactly, precisely just once. You have once chance to do it." 

There are two paintings that will not return to the governor's reception room.

The painting of Father Hennepin at St. Anthony Falls and the painting of the Treaty at Traverse Des Sioux will be moved to another area at the Capitol where curators can create a better interpretive display explaining inaccuracies in artworks.