Editor’s note: The two illustrations detailed below were commissioned by Monmouth Timeline in 2023 to illustrate multiple stories. The artist’s signed prints are currently on loan to the Matawan Historical Society, and are on display at the Burrowes Mansion Museum at 94 Main Street in Matawan.
ARTIST’S STATEMENT – CHARLIE SWERDLOW
Monmouth County Loyalists and Patriots is a two-panel illustration depicting fighters from the early years of the American Revolutionary War, i.e., prior to the Battle of Monmouth. Each canvas features an arrangement of fifteen fighters from one side of the conflict, with Loyalists on the left and Patriots on the right. They are meant to face off, with each group headed for conflict with the other. To this end, they are depicted with anger in their expressions and poses, and aggression in their handling, preparing, aiming, and firing weaponry.
These are not depictions of specific, named individuals, but are instead meant to represent the general fighting populous. Their physical appearances, clothing, and weaponry were chosen to highlight the diversity of these groups, in age, wealth, background, and profession. Other than the uniforms and weaponry of professional soldiers, these groups are meant to look almost interchangeable, to highlight the fact they were distinguished by nothing but ideology. Members of the same families, social groups,and professions found themselves on opposite sides of this conflict.
We decided to save depictions of fighters of color for a possible second diptych. This is by no means meant to undercut the role they played in both sides of this conflict, but rather to reflect two important realities: first, they were a minority, representing fewer than one in fifteen fighters. Second, black troops were generally segregated into separate all-black or mixed-race regiments. Focusing on generally representative combatants also precluded women, significant as their role was in other aspects of the war, and fascinating as the few known female combatants were.
Stylistically, these works draw inspiration from Norman Rockwell, with their overlapping historic figures on white. This serves their purpose as generally representative arrays, free of context in a specific setting. Unlike Rockwell, however, these were commissioned in a loose, sketchy style.