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About Artist Bill McGrath

Bill McGrath was born and educated along the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio, where his love of art and history began. He graduated from Kent State University with a Fine and Professional Arts degree and then joined the U.S. Coast Guard, graduating from Officer's Training School in Yorktown, Virginia in l969. After leaving the Coast Guard, McGrath spent the next seventeen years as a free-lance commercial artist and illustrator. Nine years ago, he began painting historical marine scenes from the Great Lakes area. This initial work brought him induction into the nationally known American Society of Marine Artisits (ASMA) as an artist member.

For the last nine years he has concentrated his efforts on Civil War naval subjects. His work depicts cities, harbor scenes, battles, and ships as no other artist has. "Both the Union and the Confederate navies had a tremendous impact on strategy and outcome of land campaigns and engagements throughout the war," explains McGrath. "My paintings show naval scenes that had a major influence on the Civil War."

He spends many hours meticulously researching the details that go into his canvases making sure they are historically correct. Since all the ships and most of the harbor scenes from the Civil War period no longer exist, it takes months and even years of preparation before his subjects appear on canvas. He talks with prominent authors and historians, visits nationally known museums and libraries, and gathers photographic and written reference material from a network of Civil War naval experts throughout the United States. A detail on a recent painting shows how research can change a finished work. McGrath states, "The reference photos I used showed a small building in the background. Due to the lack of detail, I made an educated guess that it was made of brick. Later microfilm research of an old newspaper stated the building was made of gray limestone. Although most people would never have noticed the painting was incorrect, I did, so I changed it." It is this dedication to detail and accuracy that make his paintings special. Because of his uncompromising authenticity and artistic skills, he was elected, by its members, to the prestigious Society of American Historical Artists (SAHA), an organization dedicated to presenting historical truth through art.
With so many respected Civil War naval authors, historians, institutions, and museums appreciating and collecting his work, it is certain that Bill McGrath will continue to portray our naval heritage with vivid color,unquestionable honesty, and historical accuracy.

For the last nine years he has concentrated his efforts on Civil War naval subjects. His work depicts cities, harbor scenes, battles, and ships as no other artist has. "Both the Union and the Confederate navies had a tremendous impact on strategy and outcome of land campaigns and engagements throughout the war," explains McGrath. "My paintings show naval scenes that had a major influence on the Civil War."

He spends many hours meticulously researching the details that go into his canvases making sure they are historically correct. Since all the ships and most of the harbor scenes from the Civil War period no longer exist, it takes months and even years of preparation before his subjects appear on canvas. He talks with prominent authors and historians, visits nationally known museums and libraries, and gathers photographic and written reference material from a network of Civil War naval experts throughout the United States. A detail on a recent painting shows how research can change a finished work. McGrath states, "The reference photos I used showed a small building in the background. Due to the lack of detail, I made an educated guess that it was made of brick. Later microfilm research of an old newspaper stated the building was made of gray limestone. Although most people would never have noticed the painting was incorrect, I did, so I changed it." It is this dedication to detail and accuracy that make his paintings special. Because of his uncompromising authenticity and artistic skills, he was elected, by its members, to the prestigious Society of American Historical Artists (SAHA), an organization dedicated to presenting historical truth through art.
With so many respected Civil War naval authors, historians, institutions, and museums appreciating and collecting his work, it is certain that Bill McGrath will continue to portray our naval heritage with vivid color,unquestionable honesty, and historical accuracy.
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His works can be found in the following Collections

Alabama Department of Archives & History - Montgomery, AL Civil War Library Museum - Philadelphia, PA Coastal Heritage Society - Savannah, GA C.S.S. Neuse State Historical Site - Kinston, NC Ethyl Corporation- Richmond, VA Museum of the Albemarle - Elizabeth City, NC North Carolina Maritime Museum - Beaufort, NC Onondaga Historical Society - Syracuse, NY Pamplin Park - Petersburg, VA Richmond National Battlefield Park - Richmond, VA The Confederate Naval Historical Society, Inc. - White Stone,VA The Confederate Naval Museum - Columbus, GA The Georgia Historical Society - Savannah, GA The David Taylor Research Center - Bethesda, MD The Great Lakes Historical Society - Vermilion, OH The Hampton Roads Naval Museum - Norfolk, VA The Museum of American History - Smithsonian Institution - Washington, DC The Museum of the Confederacy - Richmond, VA The Naval War College Museum - Newport, RI The Port-O-Plymouth Museum - Plymouth, NC The Portsmouth Museums - Portsmouth, VA The U.S. Army Military History Institute - Carlisle, PA The Valentine - Richmond, VA The Western Reserve Historical Society - Cleveland, OH Virginia Canals and Navigations Society - McLean, VA Vicksburg National Military Park - Vicksburg, MS