The Young Recruits

Christian Schuessele (Schussele), American (born France), 1824/26 - 1879

Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

39 1/4 x 52 1/2 inches (99.7 x 133.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with The McNeil Acquisition Fund for American Art and Material Culture, 2009

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In this painting, a Revolutionary War officer cheerfully rallies a group of boys wearing comical hats and armed with toy weapons. But not every face in this painting is joyful. For Christian Schuessele, who left revolution-torn Europe in 1848, the lessons of the successful American War of Independence (1775-83) were hardly playful or childish matters. By 1855, when the artist painted this scene, the United States was again struggling, this time to remain a union. In an era when artists rarely addressed political tensions, The Young Recruits raised questions about patriotism and readiness for war, bringing national issues into the realm of the family and the neighborhood.