Fort Ligonier visitors can enjoy Benjamin West sketch when renovated art gallery opens
Visitors to Fort Ligonier will discover a newly acquired sketch by early Anglo-American artist and Pennsylvania native Benjamin West when the fort museum opens its renovated art gallery later this month.
The updated gallery represents one of the final pieces of the recreated 18th century fort's $8.2 million museum expansion, renovation and restoration project.
According to Erica Nuckles, the fort's director of history and collections, the West sketch was never developed as a finished painting.
It shows a British officer in 1758 reclaiming the remains of family members killed on Braddock's Field in the Battle of the Monongahela, an earlier engagement of the French and Indian War.
"It depicts the emotional moment when Major Sir Francis Halkett identified the bones of his father and brother, both killed under what a witness called a remarkable tree over three years before," Nuckles said.
The sketch will be displayed next to "The Reunion," an historical painting of the same scene by modern artist Robert Griffing.
Joining the display will be a silver serving tray that bears the crest of colonial British official William Pitt, whose name is recalled in Fort Pitt and Pittsburgh.
The gallery also will show editions of an 18th century book recounting Col. Henry Bouquet's 1764 expedition into the Ohio Country to confront Native American foes during Pontiac's War. In 1763, Bouquet's British troops successfully defended their local encampment at Bushy Run against a native attack.
The art gallery will be officially unveiled April 28.
As a bonus, marketing director Julie Donovan said, "George Washington will be here that day" — through an appearance by reenactor Dean Malissa, who has portrayed the first president at Washington's restored home, Mount Vernon.
Moving back to the gallery will be 19 paintings that relate to the French and Indian War. Among the newer additions to the collection are five landscapes depicting sites from the war — including one created in 1854 to mark the centennial of Washington's early setback, his surrender to the French at Fort Necessity.
The gallery will be equipped with new iPads that allow visitors to explore additional works by the 11 represented artists — including Sir Joshua Reynolds, Allan Ramsay and Rembrandt Peale.
In the fort itself, Brad Mooney of Historic Restorations is overseeing preservation of the east bastion of the wooden fortifications, removing and replacing log sections that are rotting.
Donovan noted the fort and museum will have extended summer hours, until 7 p.m., on Thursdays and Fridays from June through August.
"This is a great place to be on a summer evening," she said. "It's just beautiful."
Normal hours through Nov. 25 are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, email@example.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.