Pittsburgh painter Diane Grguras has painted the historic battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, many times. She told us what accounts for the success of the pieces.
Lead Image: “From Cemetery Ridge,” by Diane Grguras, pastel, 6 x 15 in.
“It has gentle rolling hills — it’s very pretty. So it appealed to me as a plein air painter,” says Grguras. “I grew up in Cleveland, but my parents were both from Pennsylvania, so when we visited family, we passed by Gettysburg. My mother had a degree in teaching, so we were always combining history with vacations. We visited Gettysburg often. My sisters and I meet at Gettysburg still — we are all history freaks. So, for me, the appeal is convenience, and also the history of the place.”
Circumstance, beauty, and history combine in Gettysburg to stimulate Grguras’s interest. “I think that’s when you get a really good painting — when you care about what you are painting,” she says.
Her Gettysburg paintings were done over several years, and they started with a portrait of just one tree. “Every time we went back to Gettysburg I did some more paintings,” says the artist. “Then I got the idea of doing a group of Gettysburg landscapes for a show.”
The site has dedicated people working to preserve it. “They are in the process of bringing it back to the way it was back in the Civil War, removing buildings that weren’t there back then,” says Grguras. “When you visit the battlefield, it’s hushed. Everyone is very respectful. So much happened there; everywhere you stepped, someone was probably killed. Many people from both sides had relatives buried there. It really has a reverent feel to it.” Nearly 8,000 soldiers died in the Battle of Gettysburg, a pivotal battle in the Civil War.
A few months after the battle, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address during the dedication of the cemetery there. A number of trees that were alive at the time are still there on the grounds, and some were planted at the dedication ceremony. Grguras has painted some of those witnesses to the historic speech, and the costly battle that preceded it.