As we go through life many times we come in contact with people who posses a large number of skills and talents. We encounter individuals with great artistic ability that can paint, sculpt, crave and write with seemingly effortless ease. For those of us blessed with a rather limited number of creative capabilities their display of skills seems truly amazing.
One such person is Mr. Henry Kidd of Colonial Heights Virginia. A renowned painter who specializes in historical artwork Henry is also a very talented sculptor, speaker and writer. He has also participates in “The Hobby” which makes him most extraordinary. This is of course is Civil War reenacting. For twenty seven years Mr. Kidd has been a member of the Twelfth Virginia Infantry which is known as “The Petersburg Grays.”
I first met Henry back in the fall of 2011 when we were extras in Steven Spielberg’s Civil War masterpiece “Lincoln.” We were featured in the congressional portion of the film which concerned the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Henry was a Republican congressman and I was one of the four Dais clerks. We were part of a group of five which socialized daily during the filming. He must have made quite an impression
with the production staff as he was the only one of the group who made the film credits.
After our portion of the filming was completed Henry and I went our separate ways. He concentrated on his historic gallery which featured paintings on Southern Civil War subjects while I resumed my quest to transform myself from a Federal artillery officer to a “Newspaper Scribbler.” In November 2013 however we were fortunate to reconnect at the annual Fort Branch event in Hamilton North Carolina.
While on the prowl for something newsworthy in the Confederate bivouac I stumbled into the camp of the Twelfth Virginia. I soon came upon my former filmmaking comrade and fellow reenactor relaxing in a camp chair. We enjoyed a brief reunion in which we reminisced about our days filming “Lincoln.” While there Henry unveiled his latest artistic effort which he had been working on for the last four months.
Henry Kidd was born and raised in one of the most prominent locations with regard to Civil War history. Colonial Heights is located on the north side of the Appomattox River directly across from the city of Petersburg and approximately twenty miles due south from the former Confederate capital of Richmond Virginia. The importance of the war is still seen in the city with places such as Monument Avenue and Hollywood Cemetery.
Given the location of his birthplace it is little wonder that the Richmond area has had a strong hold on Mr. Kidd. He graduated from Virginia State University a local community college with a degree in Art Education. After college Henry had a thirty year career at the Philip Morris Company as a technical illustrator. Also after completing his education he served six years in the Army Reserve.
In 1989 Mr. Kidd took the plunge like most of us and joined the “Hobby” as a reenactor. His outfit of choice was the Twelfth Virginia Infantry and he has been a proud member for over twenty years. The unit has a current complement of between fifty and seventy members divided into Company B and Company C. As the years went by Henry moved up the hierarchy of reenacting. In 2004 he was awarded a top job of Confederate forces when he accepted command of “The Army of Northern Virginia” He served until 2006 and described his tenure as commander of ANV as a privilege and an honor.
In 2003 Mr. Kidd expanded his impression when he began doing a first person impression of Brigadier General Lewis Armistead. When asked why he chose the
General as an impression he cited his admiration of the man as well as a physical resemblance. As an aside he mentioned that he once conducted an interview with Richard Jordan who portrayed Armistead while filming the movie “Gettysburg” When asked about his impression of the late actor Henry replied that he was a “Pure Professional.”
One might think that participating in the “Hobby “stirred Mr. Kidd’s interest in historical art. This however is not the case. Henry Kidd’s first piece of Civil War artwork was a crayon drawing of a Confederate soldier drawn in the second grade. He began to produce historical art about the same time he took up reenacting but has had a lifelong passion for painting.
While not as well known as other Civil War artists such as Don Trioani, Dale Gallon and Mort Kunstler Henry does have a loyal following who feel that he is just as talented as his competitors. When asked which of his colleagues in world of Civil War art he prefers Mr. Kidd stated that Keith Rocco was his favorite. A personal friend Henry likes
Mr. Rocco’s impressionistic style of painting. He describes his own painting style as detail oriented but he really likes his friend’s more generalized approach.
Besides painting Henry is also a very adept sculptor whose favorite medium is clay. It was somewhat surprising to learn that Mr. Kidd took up sculpture before painting. He admits however that at this time painting is his main passion. This is evidenced by the large number of paintings that hang in well known museums and institutions. His work has been displayed on the History Channel and in many books and magazines.
In midsummer of 2013 Henry began work on his latest artistic endeavor a painting which is entitled “Virginia’s Behalf Alone.” The work completed four months later recalls the momentous day of 23 April 1861. On that day command of all the military forces in the state of Virginia was offered to Robert E Lee who had recently resigned from the United States Army.
The work is a panoramic view of the Virginia House of Delegates with the presence of many prominent men in Virginia politics who attended that day. Besides depicting Robert E Lee one can see Virginia Governor John Letcher, former Governor Henry Wise, Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stevens and former President John Tyler. Other notables are Jubal Early, Mathew Fontaine Maury and Francis Smith Commandant of the Virginia Military Institute.
One might think that the painting was an outgrowth of the Sesquicentennial but according to Mr. Kidd this is not the case. The work was unofficially commissioned two years previous by the Head Tour Guide at the Virginia State Capital. The Old Delegates Room in the capital building was made available to Henry. In this room models were dressed and photographed in order aid in the composition of the painting. He found the work rather time consuming due to large size of the canvass and detail required.
While the Civil War has been the main focus of Mr. Kidd’s historical art work he has however branched out into another genre. He has completed eight painting on subjects from the Revolutionary War. They are excellent works that have the same level detail as his other paintings and shows a strong overall interest in American history.
For those that are truly amazed at Mr. Kidd’s artistic versatility he has one final surprise. Besides doing historical artwork Henry has also dabbled in historical fiction as well. He has penned a historic novel based on events that occurred in the nearby city of Petersburg in the summer of 1864. It is entitled “Petersburg War on the Doorstep” and retells the story of the events surrounding the action at “The Crater.”
As one can see Henry Kidd is an extremely versatile and talented individual. For more information on him it is recommended that one visit his website: www.henrykiddart.com.
There you can view his paintings and sculpture as well as order his novel.
-By T. Scott Campbell