The Attack (painting)

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Lesson Planned

Desmond painting.jpg

Artist: Timothy J. Desmond

Year: 2016

Date of Action: August 2021

Region: North America

Location: Fresno, California

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion


Confronting Bodies: Fresno County Fair; State of California

Description of Artwork: Timothy Desmond's painting, “The Attack” depicts the 1864 siege of Atlanta and depicts a soldier carrying the Second National Flag of the Confederacy. A Civil War buff and retired schoolteacher from Fresno, CA, Desmond submitted “The Attack” to the CA state operated 2016 Fresno County Fair’s fine art competition.

The Incident: Fair officials rejected the entry on the grounds that exhibiting the painting would violate a 2014 California law banning the state government from selling or displaying Confederate flags on state property. The law is intended to apply to the state and not to individuals, thus the exclusion of Desmond’s painting is a violation of his Constitutional right to free expression. Desmond is suing the state in federal court, and claims that the banning of his painting constitutes “a viewpoint-based restriction on speech in violation of the First Amendment."

Results of Incident: Desmond's lawyers sought an injunction to force fair officials to show the painting, but a hearing in federal court was canceled after the defendants agreed to let Desmond show his painting at the fair (Oct 2016).

Read more here:


Civil War painting to be shown at Big Fresno Fair, averting showdown, The Fresno Bee, OCTOBER 3, 2016 3:02 PM

Artist Sues California After Local Art Fair Bans Painting With Confederate Flag, NCAC, SEPTEMBER 7, 2016

Editorial Taking a ban on Confederate flag displays to an absurd extreme, By The LATimes Editorial Board, Sept 2, 2016

California bans painting of Civil War battle from County Fair art show, because painting includes Confederate battle flag, By Eugene Volokh September 1, 2016