Edwin Forbes Engraving Plate No. 12, Coffee Coolers - This unframed print measures 24" x 20" is titled "Coffee Coolers" and is Plate No. 12 out of 40. It is signed in the lower left corner, "E. Forbes." In excellent condition this is an original engraving from his portfolio. The scene depicted shows a party of stragglers from the column which is seen marching over the hill in the distance. These are the men who always shirked a battle, and were to be found with their regiments only when rations were to be served out, at a safe distance from the enemy.
Edwin Forbes (1839-1895) was an American landscape painter and etcher, best known for his Life Studies of the Great Army. He was born in New York City to Joseph C. and Ann Forbes. At the age of eighteen he began his study of art and by the age of twenty became a pupil of Arthur F. Tait. His early work involved painting animals but he later expanded to genre scenes and landscapes.
In 1861 he was hired as a staff artist for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper where he covered the Army of the Potomac from 1862 to 1864. With his primary interest being that of recording the everyday activities of soldiers, Forbes would making quick sketches on the battlefield and later refine them with great detail. The sketches were sent back to New York where copper plate etchings were made from the detailed drawings. His drawings were published in Leslie's newspaper and in 1876, Forbes made etchings of his own illustrations and published them in portfolio form on better quality paper as Life Studies of the Great Army: A Historical Art Work in Copper Plate Etching Containing Forty Plates. His work, considered to be the finest drawings of the Civil War, is now preserved in the War Office at Washington D.C. because of the historic significance and value. Less than 200 of these superb large size etchings were ever made.
His Life Studies of the Great Army would go on to receive an award at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. After his death the Library of Congress acquired Forbes originals through a gift of John Pierpont Morgan in 1919. They included about 300 drawings as well as forty-three etched plates and the original impressions used in Life Studies of the Great Army.