Click main image below to view enlargements and captions.

History, Military, American, Soldier Uniforms, Pierce Rice, Vintage Paintings, 20th Century

Pierce Rice (1916-2003)
Union Army Civil War Soldiers
American: 3rd Quarter 20th Century
Oil on canvas board
Provenance: Estate of the artist

[Union Soldier in Shako (yellow plume)]
[Soldier in Shako (green feathers)]

Signed: Pierce Rice
10 x 8 inches, overall
$1300, the pair

[Union Soldier in Shako (yellow plume)]
[Soldier in Shako (green feathers)]

Signed: Pierce Rice
10 x 8 inches, overall
$1,300, the pair

[Union Shako with Pompom]
Signed: PR
12 x 8.75 inches, overall

Union Army Artillery Shako [title verso]
Signed: Pierce Rice
7.5 x 5.5 inches, image
12 x 9 inches, overall

Four paintings of Civil War soldiers by Pierce Rice wearing various types of shakos, conical military hats decorated with plumes or pompoms. Only one was titled by the artist: Union Army Artillery Shako, which shows a light artillery officer wearing a shako, with a red plume. The compositions have the modern feel of casual snapshots of men going about their activities, rather than formally posed portraits. The painting of the man in the shako with a red and white pompom recalls the artist’s background in comic book illustration, with its dramatic and mysterious closeup, showing just the eyes gazing directly at the viewer, shaded by the hat’s brim.


Pierce George Rice was an American artist, as well as an influential writer and educator on classical architecture and art history. Born and educated in Brooklyn, after high school he studied art at the National Academy under Leon Kroll, Charles C. Curran and Lester Cobey. Finishing his studies in 1938, he went to work as a cartoonist for Harvey Comics, drawing for The Green Hornet and others. During World War II he served in the army, and returned to cartooning after the war for various companies, including over two years at Marvel Comics.

In the 1950s, Rice moved to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., area and turned to magazine cover illustration, portraiture and commissions. He also became an advocate for the classical tradition in art and architecture as a co-founder of the organization Classical America with Henry Hope Reed. He wrote essays for its journal, which began publication in 1971, and reviews for Art & Antiques. He further expounded his ideas in courses in classical architecture and traditional drawing techniques for the National Academy of Design, New York, and the University of Pennsylvania. A charismatic lecturer, his teachings influenced the founders of New York’s Institute of Classical Architecture, which merged with Classical America in 2002.

Rice also completed some major art commissions, including the 14-foot-diameter bronze relief that until recently decorated the Philip Morris, Inc. International Headquarters Building on Park Avenue in New York City, and a mural for the National Museum of American History in Washington. His writings include Man As Hero: The Human Figure in Western Art (1986, 2000). Rice’s archive on art and illustration are in the Pierce Rice Collection of the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress, and his papers are at the Avery Library at Columbia University.

Condition: Union Army Artillery Shako is generally very good with usual light overall wear and soiling of the image itself; the rest of the board is in good condition with scattered wear and staining. The other paintings are generally very good with usual light overall wear, toning and soiling, and minor or scattered wear to edges.


“Obituary: Pierce Rice 1916-2003.” Originally published in The Comics Journal #254. 30 June 2003. The Comics Reporter.

“Pierce Rice.” (Biography accompanying estate sale.) Washington, D.C.: Sloan Kenyon, 2005.

Additional information


20th Century