Thursday, September 16, 2010

Belle Boyd Pretty or Plain?

Bell Boyd... Pretty or Plain?
When on the Civil War track an artist can study thousands of characters whose faces glare out from the history books and shout "Me! Study Me! and then there are those who quietly glance off to the side and wait patiently until some one flips the page and says "Who is this?" So was the case one day when this artist was reading along and came upon the portrait of Belle Boyd Confederate Spy! Upon reading of her many exploits I was surprised to learn that she was not pretty. What an interesting attribute I thought. So began the search for more images and finally I decided to paint her picture and see for myself. Using period photographs of the day I realized The long exposures (12-15 seconds) reveal quite a bit of character that was delivered in the quarter minute visit with the lens. Even after repeated attempts I could not find the woman not pretty, not that she was beautiful but that she just wasn't not pretty. But I do admit that her photograph did have some kind of ability to stop me and make me want to get involved. So is this the power of a women who could become a Confederate spy. I think perhaps so.
Using the standard famous pose for Belle I carefully consulted all other photos I could find before finally arriving at the image I produced. When upon showing this painting at various Civil War Art salons I was told that I had been very kind to Belle. I replied that I had really been fair. I wondered if I would divulge any Yankee secrets to her if she sent me a thank you letter. I am grateful I will not have to deal with this. Incidentally I was reading some more about Belle Boyd recently and was amused that the author remarked what a pretty women she was known to be......


  1. I love your interpretation of her and the expression of the brush strokes add a certain personality to her portrait her as I view it. I think I agree with you that she is not beautiful but not homely and not, unpretty. I bought a book about her and I have yet to finish it. I am fascinated by her role as a spy in the Civil War. Great work, Kevin.

  2. I think Belle Boyd is very "interesting looking" in your painting. I don't consider her ugly or particularly plain. Interesting is the word I keep coming back to! Love your interpretation of her! I'll have to find some photos of her now, as you have piqued my interest.