Scenes of War
Winslow Homer's Civil War illustrations are on display in Portland.
By Caroline Praderio
Winslow Homer is most famous for his Maine-inspired artwork: the dramatic seascapes and depictions of maritime life he painted in his Prout’s Neck studio are still lauded as American masterpieces. But Homer’s journey to artistic immortality did not begin with oil paint on canvas. At age nineteen, he signed on as an apprentice to a lithographer in his hometown of Boston. After relocating to New York City in 1859, Homer established himself as a freelance commercial illustrator. By 1861, Homer caught the attention of the American public as an artist-correspondent during the Civil War, providing illustrations for Harper’s Weekly as he traveled with Union troops and made several trips to the front lines of combat in Virginia. Homer’s expertly rendered scenes of the war and its aftermath shaped American perceptions of the conflict throughout the 1860s. Today, they still offer a uniquely multifaceted perspective of the Civil War, with views from the battlefield, soldiers’ camps, and the home front. Winslow Homer’s Civil War, on display through December 8 at the Portland Museum of Art, celebrates this artistic achievement nearly 150 years after the end of the Civil War. The exhibit is one of twenty-three sites on the Maine Civil War Trail, a statewide commemoration of the war’s sesquicentennial. With its thirty wood engravings and one oil painting, the exhibit offers a window into one of American history’s most tumultuous periods — and honors the important work of one of Maine’s most famous artists-in-residence.
If You Go:
Winslow Homer’s Civil War (co-sponsored by Down East) is on display through December 8. Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Adults, $12; seniors and students, $10; children 13–17, $6; members and children under 12, free. Free admission on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. 7 Congress Sq., Portland. 207-775-6148. portlandmuseum.org
From Harper’s Weekly, January 8, 1870, wood engraving on wove paper,
13 7/16 x 20 7/16 inches. Gift of Peggy and Harold Osher.
A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac, from Harper’s Weekly, December 21, 1861, wood engraving on wove paper, 16 x 21 ¾ inches. Gift of Peggy and Harold Osher.
The War for the Union 1862 - A Cavalry Charge, from Harper’s Weekly, July 5, 1862, wood engraving on wove paper, 13 9/16 x 20 ⅝ inches. Gift of Peggy and Harold Osher.
Our Watering-Places - The Empty Sleeve at Newport, August 26, 1865, wood engraving on wove paper, 9 5/16 x 13 ¾ inches. Gift of Peggy and Harold Osher.
Foraging, from L. Prang and Company, undated, lithograph on wove paper, 10 11/16 x 8 ½ inches. Gift of Peggy and Harold Osher.
Christmas Boxes in Camp - Christmas, 1861, from Harper’s Weekly, 1862, wood engraving on wove paper, 10 ⅞ x 9 ⅛ inches. Gift of Peggy and Harold Osher.
The War - Making Havelocks for the Volunteers, from Harper’s Weekly, June 29, 1861, wood engraving on wove paper, 16 x 10 ¾ inches. Gift of Peggy and Harold Osher.
Thanksgiving Day - Hanging Up the Musket, from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, December 23, 1865, wood engraving on wove paper, 16 x 11 inches. Gift of Peggy and Harold Osher.