Buffalo Soldier Oil Paintings
A Day in the Life of a Soldier
What was life like for the African American soldier stationed in the deserts of Arizona in the late 1800’s?
For 15 years artist David Laughlin researched the troops and their daily activities while stationed in Arizona from 1885-1896.
From waking to bathing, Laughlin crafted 24 images of the soldiers’ life by carving linoleum block to make the multiple color print layers he then manually printed in sequence.
Each print depicts an hour in the daily life of the Buffalo Soldier between the many years they were stationed in the Southeastern Arizona wilderness.
The collection of twenty four (24) images tells the story of the daily and typical events of the U.S. Cavalry, known as the 10th Cavalry Regiment. The collection’s images feature scenery (backgrounds) only found in the southeast portion of the state of Arizona. Most of the Regiment’s service was as peacemakers while in the field.
The images were created as a result of lengthy research from 1981 to 1996, all while the artist was working and teaching art in Tucson, Arizona. Relief prints were made from carved linoleum blocks using two distinct carved images and paint in two colors. The blocks were then carved and printed again in two more colors using artist oils in a transparent base. Papers used were archival quality drawing paper and all paints were 100% acid free.
Each image ultimately required four separate color passes using an intaglio press to achieve an edition of 50 signed and numbered prints. The approximate number of impressions per image was 200. With 24 images at 200 impressions each, the total number of impressions equaled 4800. This printing process along with the design creation, carving of the individual image blocks, drying, handling and signing of each print took over 15 years to complete.
A gift of a full set of “Military Hours” was given to Central Missouri University and exhibited at a special showing in the fall of 1996.
Laughlin has always been an artist with a strong desire to learn from the careers of other American artists and illustrators. His Buffalo Soldier works was inspired by the great illustrator, Frederic Remington.
Remington appealed to Laughlin for his impressive drawing ability and sure business sense. Laughlin studied many of Remington’s works created during his hire with Century Magazine and the Buffalo Soldier period. A brief history of Remington’s experience and adventures during that time follows:
Remington had a fall art class at Yale with Poultney Bigelow, who later became an editor for Century Magazine. Bigelow’s brother, a first lieutenant in the 10th Cavalry in Arizona, had written to Bigelow that a campaign to capture Geronimo and a band of 38 Chiricahua Apache Indians was in the planning.
Remington was contracted by the magazine to travel to Arizona by Southern Pacific Railroad and to be the artist reporter on the campaign. Remington traveled through New Mexico and then on to Fort Grant in Willcox, Arizona. There he met Lieutenant Powhatan Clarke who later became a close friend and confidant.
Remington was assigned to a troop of Buffalo Soldiers and Lt. James Watson, a 10th Cavalry rough rider for an eleven day scout patrol to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. During that eleven day trip, a happy and sunburned young man wrote to his wife that he had lost over 10 pounds.
Remington went on to Tucson, Hermosillo, Mexico and back to the U.S. to Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona. His story plus his black and white illustrations of his travels and the soldiers’ lives, were published in Century Magazine in April of 1889. To print his images in the magazine, a guild of carvers and sculptors was hired to hand carve hundreds of wood blocks necessary for the printing press reproduction.
Remington’s images of black Americans serving their country changed many east coast attitudes to a
greater admiration for their service.
Pen & Ink – Circa 1983
Pen & Ink Historical Recreations Postcard Series