Painted soon after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865, and President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination five days later, Homer’s canvas depicts an emblematic farmer, revealed to be a Union veteran as well by his discarded jacket and canteen at the lower right. His old-fashioned scythe evokes the Grim Reaper, recalling the war’s harvest of death and expressing grief at Lincoln’s murder. A redemptive feature is the bountiful wheat—a northern crop—which could connote the Union’s victory. Referring to death and life, Homer’s iconic composition offers a powerful meditation on America’s sacrifices and its potential for recovery.
Signature: [at lower left]: Winslow Homer 65; [on canteen at lower right]: W.H.
the artist, until 1866; sale, Henry H. Leeds and Miner, New York, 17 Nov. 1866; Adelaide Milton de Groot, New York, by 1936–died 1967
Artist: Winslow Homer (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1836–1910 Prouts Neck, Maine)Date: 1873Medium: Watercolor washes and gouache over graphite underdrawing on medium rough textured white wove paperAccession: 2001.608.1On view in:Not on view