The Veteran in a New Field

Artist: Winslow Homer (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1836–1910 Prouts Neck, Maine)

Date: 1865

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 24 1/8 x 38 1/8in. (61.3 x 96.8cm)
Framed: 37 3/8 × 51 1/4 × 5 1/4 in. (94.9 × 130.2 × 13.3 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967

Accession Number: 67.187.131

Description

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.

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