“Remarkable” painting highlights final Creek lecture
Published 9:51 am Monday, May 7, 2012
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
A “remarkable” find proved to be the highlight of the final installment of a three-part lecture series on the Creek War and War of 1812 presented at the historic CME Church in Lowndesboro Thursday night.
Daniel Fate Brooks of Lowndesboro closed out the “In the Footprints of the Creeks” presentations with his lecture “Portraits of Native Sons. Images of the Creek War.”
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He followed his lecture with an exhibit of art and other items on loan from private collectors at the Marengo House. One of those exhibits was a scan of an original painting of Osceola by W.M. Laning, which Brooks found himself.
Brooks is the retired director of Arlington Historic House and Gardens in Birmingham and adjunct instructor at Samford University in Birmingham.
“It’s really the only life portrait of Osceola that exists. All the rest are secondary copies or other things…quite a remarkable find,” said Dr. Gregory A. Waselkov, professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Archaeological Studies at the University of South Alabama.
“My fascination with the Creek War has come through art, not only the objects that I saw as a child, but the artists, the objects that I had worked with as a museum director,” Brooks said.
Brooks said one of the “most famous mixed blood Creeks in our history” is not remembered as a Creek.
“If you are a Florida State University fan, and you have been to football games, you have seen that Seminole mascot on horseback going up and down the football field, dressed as Osceola,” Brooks said, “Osceola was a native Alabamian, born in the land that would become Alabama. His mother was Creek, his father was English… when Jackson pushed the Creeks out of Alabama, he goes down to Florida with his mother, and there he lives.”
Leading up to his find, Brooks said, “I knew the painting on the left (the one of Osceola by William Lanning now hanging in the Chrysler Museum). I had seen it and I had read about it. And so the day that I had found the painting on the right (the one he purchased for the city of Birmingham) in this condition, I was speechless.”
“It varied slightly from the painting on the left. Both of them are allegorical paintings in that they tell a story. There is less of a tree on the left. There is a seated figure in the unrestored painting on the right. The figure is walking away on the left. There are flowers in the painting on the right. There are none in the painting on the left. The right painting was the first rendering. Osceola’s health was declining. Osceola was dying,” Books said.
He said Osceola was held captive at Fort Moultrie and artists from all the country were going there to paint him. William Laning is painting in Charleston and so it goes.
“I was able to purchase this painting for our collection at Arlington,” Brooks said.
“We had it cleaned. Laning’s signature appeared, all of the details appeared,” he said. “The thing that I think is even more fascinating as I pieced pieces of the puzzle together. I believed this to be the portrait that was owned by the doctor.”
“The doctor” refers to Dr. Frederick Weedon, who attended the chief at his death.
“In the Footprints of the Creeks” was a three-part lecture series in which through history, archaeology and a study of historic illustrations, scholars interpreted the significance of events surrounding the Creek War and portrayed the culture of a Creek Nation that impacted American expansion.
“Yes, we have all come to this place from different approaches,” Brooks said in closing the lecture series. “I hope that you will have made a pact with yourselves that you will take your children in the footprints of the Creeks.”
The Lowndesboro Landmarks Foundation invited the public to attend these free special events, which were co-sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.