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Discover how celebrated American artist Winslow Homer’s work for the illustrated periodical Harper’s Weekly helped shape his later career as a painter and watercolorist.
During the Civil War (1861–1865), American artist Winslow Homer (1836–1910) served as a correspondent for Harper’s. His sketches of soldiers, both in battle on the front lines and in quieter moments back at camp, were reproduced to accompany the journal’s accounts of the conflict. Homer worked for Harper’s just as new technologies were making it possible to rapidly reproduce newsworthy images on a large scale. Working together with Harper’s editors and engravers, he employed a range of pictorial strategies to reassure skeptical readers that his illustrations were not fabrications, but eyewitness observations “drawn on the spot.”
While in the field as an artist-correspondent, Homer developed habits of seeing and pictorial strategies that informed his work in other media. In addition to tracing these connections, this show explores broader questions that Homer’s art raises about the responsibility of artists who work in periods riven by war and conflict.
Co-curated by Ethan W. Lasser, Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Curator of American Art and Head of the Division of European and American Art; and Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography; with the assistance of Oliver Wunsch, former Maher Curatorial Fellow of American Art (2018–19), Harvard Art Museums.
Support for this exhibition was provided by the Bolton Fund for American Art, Gift of the Payne Fund; and the Henry Luce Foundation Fund for the American Art Department. Exhibition-related programming is made possible by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund and the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund.