Archibald Willard bigraphy, stories - American painter

Archibald Willard : biography

1836 - 1918

Archibald MacNeal Willard (August 22, 1836–October 11, 1918) was an American painter who was born and raised in Bedford, Ohio.

Willard joined the 86th Ohio Infantry in 1863 and fought in the American Civil War. During this time, he painted several scenes from the war and forged a friendship with photographer James F. Ryder. Willard painted The Spirit of '76 in Wellington, Ohio after he saw a parade pass through the town square. Willard also painted three murals in the main hall of the Fayette County courthouse in Washington Court House, Ohio: The Spirit of Electricity, The Spirit of Telegraphy, and The Spirit of the Mail.

Willard is buried in Wellington, Ohio at the Greenwood Cemetery.Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones, Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-025-6 There is a Willard Drive in Bedford and a Willard Avenue in nearby Garfield Heights named after him.

The Spirit of '76

Willard's most famous work is The Spirit of '76 (previously known as Yankee Doodle), which was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition. The original is displayed in Abbot Hall, Marblehead, Massachusetts, with several later variations painted by Willard exhibited around the country (including in the United States Department of State). Of note, he used his father as the model for the middle character of the painting.

In popular culture

The painting is referred to in a scene of Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse Five where the protagonist Billy Pilgrim walks through a POW camp near Dresden. Billy is thus described: "Billy was carrying his little coat as though it were a lady's muff. It was wrapped around and around his hands. He was the central clown in an unconscious travesty of that famous oil painting, The Spirit of '76."

In the 1963 WWII film "The Great Escape" Hilts (Steve McQueen) and Hendley (James Garner) are seen celebrating the 4th of July in a German POW camp. They arise the camp in the morning to the playing of "Yankee Doodle" and are dressed very similar to the characters in the painting.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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