History marches on through the oil paintings of a Kennebunkport artist.
Ken Hendricksen, 41, produces works of almost photographic clarity which bring to life the faces of the Civil War era.
Hendricksen was inspired to turn his artistic eye on that time period by Ken Burns’ epic 1991 TV series “The Civil War.”
“That series was so well done, and led me to seek out other books on the Civil War,” Hendricksen said.
Among the subjects of his oversized sepia-toned works are the battlefield at Fredericksburg, three Confederates captured at Gettysburg, and Lincoln and McClellan at Antietam.
Of particular interest to Hendricksen is Brig. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, the Brewer native who later became president of Bowdoin College. Chamberlain is the subject of eight paintings by the artist. Today marks the 80th anniversary of Chamberlain’s death.
“When you hear about someone from your home state, you want to follow him along,” he said. “He’s just an interesting character, Maine’s grand old man. I felt there was a need to paint him, and felt that too many people weren’t aware of him.”
Hendricksen recreates history in his studio in the Kennebunkport Brewing Company building. He’s currently working on a 12-foot-long painting of a 43-member Vermont artillery brigade. His paintings of classical European statues hang there, while his Civil War works are on display in the Federal Jack tavern upstairs.
The self-taught artist works from historical photographs to create his monochromatic works. He lays grids on both the photo and the canvas, to set up reference points. He next works with first the dark colors, then the whites, then the mediums. When he’s happy with the finished work, he waits six months for the oils to dry, then applies a coat of varnish.
“It looks exactly like the black-and-white photo when I get done,” Hendricksen said.
Hendricksen said he was always good at art, but has only been working at it seriously for the past 10 to 15 years.
“I didn’t know what I had in my earlier years,” he said.
He veered away from painting in the early ’80s, to earn more money creating sand-blasted signs for many southern Maine businesses. But he came back.
“You miss it after a while,” Hendricksen said. “I shouldn’t ever have left it.”