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Facets and Reflections: Painting the Octagon's History

Building the Octagon
36" x 60", oil on canvas
Architect and Client
oil on canvas

"'If one can really penetrate the life of another age, one is penetrating the life of one's own.' So wrote T.S. Eliot on the translation of historical literature. Similarly, in the paintings of Peter Waddell, representation should not be confused with reproduction. For Waddell, 'history painting' is never merely the direct portrayal of historical fact. Rather, it is an act of penetration - penetration into the past, and the subsequent recreation of that past in the present.

"History painting could be considered an art reliant on veracity tempered by invention, on historical fidelity filtered by the subjectivity of recollection. This is artistic territory, located by Waddell, on the boundary between history and legend: a point where historical fact and artistic creativity, reconstruction and interpretation, blend into a third, transcendent visionary reality.

"Peter Waddell is an artist for whom history can be neither illustrated nor concluded - rather painted, and thereby recreated. It's an imaginative cartography of that other country: the past."

Bede Scott, Art Historian

The President's House on Fire
oil on canvas

On August 24, 1814, the British burned Washington, but the Octagon was saved when Ann Tayloe, who had given birth just days before, turned the house over to the diplomatically immune French Minister before fleeing the city.

Dolly Madison at the Octagon
48" x 36", oil on canvas

The Tayloes offered President and Dolley Madison the use of the Octagon as a temporary residence until the President's House could be rebuilt. From the fall of 1814 until the next spring, the Octagon, under the dominion of the irrepressible Dolley, became the epicenter of Washington Life.

End of the Golden Weather: Rear View of the Octagon, 1855
oil on canvas

After the Madison's departed, the Tayloes returned and occupied the house until Ann's death in 1855. Shortly thereafter the Octagon enter a period of decline until it was rescued by architects at the turn of the century, its place in history assured as a masterpiece of design and a silent witness to the nation's remarkable history.

Kitchen Work
36" x 60", oil on canvas

60" x 60", oil on canvas

life size, oil on dummyboard

Early Washington
108" x 84"

Mount Airy
oil on canvas

A Desireable Lot
oil on canvas

An Evening Party
oil on canvas

**Archie Waiting
oil on canvas

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