FMU history major paints portrait of Gen. Francis Marion

Dale Weatherford Photo courtesy of Francis Marion University

Dale Weatherford
Photo courtesy of Francis Marion University

Dale Weatherford’s habit of drawing in class put him into grade school hot water while growing up in Darlington.

Today, his ability to mix academics with art is earning him accolades at Francis Marion University.

FMU’s Department of History just unveiled a painting by Weatherford of General Francis Marion, the university’s namesake, and hung it in a place of honor: the History Students’ Lounge in Founders Hall.

Dr. Chris Kennedy, chair of the Department of History, says that Weatherford, a senior History major and honors student, was ideal to tackle the new Marion work. Kennedy “commissioned” the work by Weatherford after seeing an earlier work by him, a depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That piece, says Kennedy, “was excellent.

“(Dale) is a wonderful student of History, particularly the colonial-revolutionary period of United States’ History,” says Kennedy. “He is also an accomplished artist whose art work speaks for itself. It is professional in its realism and attention to detail, like the clothing, uniforms, insignia, and other characteristics of his subject matter. … He does an excellent job of combining his knowledge of History with his artistry.”

Weatherford called the opportunity to paint Francis Marion for Francis Marion a real honor.

“The university was named after him,” says Weatherford. “That’s the main reason.”

Francis Marion has been captured on canvas a number of times, but it’s still no easy task. Among other issues is the fact that no one really knows what the General looked like. There was, of course, no photography while he was alive, and even the oldest of his portraits post-date his death.

Artists, from the post-Colonial period on, have had to rely on written descriptions. That’s helped, but they’re limiting, too. The best is from author Mason Locke Weems who wrote that one of Marion’s own men described the famous Revolutionary War leader as “ugly, cross, knock-kneed, hook-nosed…”

Weatherford says the challenge of figuring out what Marion really looked like made painting Gen. Francis Marion more enjoyable.

“I had to use a little bit of imagination,” says Weatherford. “Every artist does what is known as artistic licensing to make it their own. We know he had black hair, was a French Huguenot, had a hook nose and was dark complected.”
Weatherford says since not much else was known, he used Rembrandt’s painting of George Washington’s face as a starting point.

“Portraits are a challenge and getting the face is the hardest part,” says Weatherford. “I used it as the model to show command, respect and things like that.”

Weatherford was bitten by the history bug early in his academic career, perhaps as early as the fourth grade. Later, while attending The Byrnes School, Weatherford recalls being “forced” to go to the school library.

“So I would read history books,” says Weatherford. “But, it wasn’t until college that I really began to appreciate history, mainly because of the professors.”

Weatherford says that two FMU professors in particular, Kennedy and Dr. William K. Bolt, fortified his love for history through classes like Jacksonian Democracy and the History of the British Empire. Likewise, Dr. Steven Gately, Dr. Samuel Howell and others were there to fuel his artistic desires. Weatherford took Art History (Nineteenth Century Art), Intro to Painting, Figure Drawing and Basic Drawing. That augmented his natural talents. So, when Kennedy and Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honors Society commissioned the painting, Weatherford was ready.
Weatherford says he really enjoyed working on the Marion project. It was a pleasing way for him to honor a university that has given so much to him. Francis Marion was always his school of choice.

“I love the locale… of the school and it seems the professors care more than any university I can think of,” says Weatherford.

Weatherford will graduate in May. He plans to attend graduate school.

Weatherford is currently working as an intern with Lynches Lake Historical Society in Lake City.

Author: Jana Pye

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