The Confederate Memorial Institute in Richmond, also called the Battle Abbey, had its inception in 1896, when the late Charles Broadway Rouss, a gallant soldier of the Army of Northern Virginia and later a successful man of affairs in New York City, donated $100,000 toward the erection of a Confederate memorial building on condition that a like sum should be contributed by the Southern people. Of the sum to be raised to match Mr. Rouss’s generous gift, $50,000 was appropriated by the City of Richmond and the required balance was made up by various public-spirited men. The building proper, exclusive of the portrait gallery annex in its rear, was completed in 1913.
The mural paintings by Charles Hoffbauer, which adorn the walls of the south room, were made possible by the generosity of the late Thomas Fortune Ryan of Virginia .and New York, who donated the sum of $20,000 for that work.
Mr. Hoffbauer was engaged in this great work when the World War broke out, and he forthwith returned to France in order to enlist in the defense of his native country. He was assigned by the French government to make battle sketches from the first line trenches. At the conclusion of the war he returned to Richmond, destroyed his former sketches, declaring that he now knew what war meant. He then completed the splendid paintings which are deemed by competent critics to be of the highest artistic merit.
Specimens of Mr. Hoffbauer’s work are on exhibition at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris. Pictures by him are also shown at the Paris Salon from time to time, and in that city he maintains his studio at 110 rue du Bac. Some of his paintings adorn the walls in the Grand Salon of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris.
In speaking of the selection of Hoffbauer as the artist to create the mural paintings for the Battle Abbey, the late Edward V. Valentine, the distinguished sculptor, said, “The selection of Hoffbauer to do the mural paintings in the Battle Abbey was most fortunate. It is marvelous how he has entered into the spirit of the South in this work. Not only the characteristics of the officers but those of the private soldier are faithfully portrayed. It is a most remarkable work-the pictures are historical gems, a history in themselves.”
The Battle Abbey is situated at Kensington Avenue and Boulevard, in a six-acre lot adjoining the Old Soldiers’ Home, and it is worthy of notice for its avenue of magnolias and the magnificent landscape design which adds dignity to the classic lines of the Abbey.
In the northern room are also installed, for the time being, a collection of paintings presented to the State of Virginia in 1920 by the Honorable John Barton Payne, a native of this State. These pictures were temporarily placed in the Battle Abbey until such time as the State may make some other provision for their protection and display.