In 2004, The White House Historical Association commissioned Tom Freeman, one of the most prolific painters of historical subjects in the United States, to paint a panoramic representation of the White House in flames at the hands of the British on the night of August 24, 1814. Freeman studied the literature, consulted with historians, and researched the British uniforms and the fire dynamics. He succeeded in bringing us back in time to the moments when the flames consumed a landmark at the symbolic heart of the young democracy—he captured the roaring orange flames made more ferocious in contrast with darkest indigoes of a stormy sky. We see the torches, the broken windows, the burning interiors, and collapsing roof. Two centuries later, we have become witnesses to the fire. Ten years after the original commission was made, as the bicentennial of the burning approached, the popularity of the painting inspired the association to return to the artist with a new commission—to expand his storytelling with pencil, paper, and a touch of watercolor in the orange flames. The resulting collection of images are presented here, as a commemorative account of The Night They Burned the White House.
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