SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Thomas Feely, the artist who created a miniature of the famed 1836 Battle of the Alamo that has been displayed at the Texas shrine for more than 30 years, has crafted a much larger diorama that he said is more authentic and “jaw-dropping” to see in person.
The battle scene is stored in a building on Feely’s property in Jackson, Pennsylvania, north of Scranton - some 1,800 miles away from the real Alamo. Feely said he has asked some museums in Texas if they would display the diorama, but none of them has room. At 24 feet by 14 feet, about 14 times as large as the 6-foot-by-4-foot scene in the Alamo Gift Shop, it is the size he said it had to be to capture the chaos and intensity of the battle.
“This diorama might be too big for Texas,” Feely, who has a second home in San Antonio and is often there, told the San Antonio Express-News (https://bit.ly/1QEy7Xa). “If you’re going to have something museum scale, that’s the size it needs to be.”
Without a commission, Feely, 69, spent the past 12 years carefully constructing the scene of the morning of March 6, 1836, at the height of the battle for Texas independence. He used advice from well over a dozen Alamo researchers to get every detail correct, from architecture and uniforms to weapons, blacksmith’s tools and even knots used to tie down horses.
Over 2,000 hand-painted pewter figures were placed in the 1/32-scale diorama. Feely used a computer for spatial accuracy, and he often rebuilt parts of the work as new research surfaced.
A master plan for the Alamo area soon to be developed for the city and the Texas General Land Office is expected to include construction of a museum to house artifacts donated by former rock singer Phil Collins. William R. Chemerka, a New Jersey resident and founder of the Alamo Society, a global association of Alamo aficionados, said Feely’s diorama would be an ideal centerpiece for such a museum.
“It’s an inspirational piece of artwork,” said Chemerka, who last saw it two weeks ago. “It tells more about the Alamo in a blink of an eye than an entire book or movie. It shows heroism on both sides of the walls.”
In 2009, Collins funded the purchase and transport from Georgia to San Antonio of a 15-foot-by-13-foot diorama made by Alamo artist Mark Lemon. That scene, on display at the History Shop, north of the Alamo, shows the 1836 structures and surrounding landscape without human figures. At the time, Collins said he paid “six figures” to buy the scene and ship it to San Antonio.
Feely’s latest display depicts a few Alamo defenders fleeing the compound, about to be cut down by Mexican lancers on horseback, and shows the “dramatic moment” when Mexican forces form a “mass of humanity” starting to breach the north wall, Chemerka said.
“It’s colorful, detailed, action-packed, and you can see how really doomed the defenders are,” he said.
Martin Vasquez, president of El Primer Batallon de Mexico, a re-enactment group, advised Feely on the colors and details of Mexican troops’ uniforms, including grenadiers and engineers - reserves in the battle who were ordered to charge the north wall behind front-line troops.
“In this diorama, you’ve got that. They’re coming from behind, on that push over the wall,” he said.
Vasquez has seen only photos of the work but hopes the diorama is someday displayed at or near the Alamo.
“It needs to be here. The detail is the best you’ll ever see,” he said.
Feely built the scene to be divided into four sections so it could be crated and shipped by truck. He did not reveal how much he would charge for the diorama, but said he would ask more from a retail business than a museum to display it.
“It makes a difference who’s going to take it,” Feely said. “I’m open to suggestions.”
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, https://www.mysanantonio.com
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