This blog was written by Erik Swanson, Exhibit Curator and Coordinator for the University Libraries.
The W. R. Poage Legislative Library is proud to display the art of former Baylor Professor Henry A. McArdle. These six pieces were generously gifted by Mrs. Paul Gervais Bell, Jr. All of the portraits are beautifully painted, framed and carefully restored and represent a significant contribution to Texas history as well as to Baylor University. Each member of the extended family (Ira Randolph Lewis, his wife Eliza Julia Hunt Lewis, Chauncey Berkeley Shepard and his wife Mary Hester Shepard, Moses Austin Bryan and his wife Cora Lewis Bryan) played an important role in the early history of Texas.
Born in 1836 in Belfast Ireland, Henry McArdle began studying the arts at a very young age. By 1851 McArdle had moved to Baltimore, Maryland and he continued his studies at the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanical Arts. By the time of his graduation in 1860, McArdle had already won the Peabody Award, a much sought-after prize for art students.
After the Civil War, in 1868, McArdle and his wife Jennie Smith moved to Independence, Texas. They had hoped the warmer climate would aid Jennie’s health but she unfortunately died in 1870. Later McArdle would marry again and he and his wife, Isophene Dunnington, would have a daughter and four sons.
In 1871 McArdle joined the faculty at Baylor University in Independence, Texas but stayed in Independence after Baylor University moved to Waco in 1886. He continued to research and paint, focused mainly on the history and heroes of his beloved Texas.
During his tenure at Baylor (1871-1885) and after, McArdle produced a number of popular paintings such as Lee at the Wilderness, The Battle of San Jacinto, Dawn at the Alamo, and The Settlement of Austin’s Colony. These paintings were known for McArdle’s eye for detail, a result of his careful historical research.