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Winslow Homer exhibit looks at women and the Civil War effort

SU Art Galleries

During the Civil War, the popular magazine Harper’s Weekly hired American artist Winslow Homer to illustrated the conflict. A distinct subject of his imagery was the contributions to the war effort made by women.

Now, the Syracuse University Art Galleries is giving visitors a glimpse of his work. “Winslow Homer: Women and American Society During the Civil War Era” is on exhibit through May 12.

Presented in correlation with the Department of Art and Music Histories in the College of Arts and Sciences, the exhibition features 21 of Homer’s original wood engravings.

During the fall 2018 semester, Distinguished Professor of Art and Music Histories Wayne Franits and students from his senior seminar studied the artist’s war imagery, highlighting the contributions to the war effort made by women.

The research and curatorial writing from seven undergraduate students is featured in the exhibition drawn from the permanent art collection as well as loaned work from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University.

Homer, who lived from 1836 to 1910, was widely known and highly regarded for his dramatic Maine seascapes and watercolors of the Adirondacks and the Caribbean.

He began his career making drawings for wood-engraved illustrations in the period’s popular press newspapers. He became very successful with his work for Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War. Through these prints, Homer gave readers a more complete picture of the war and its impact on the country.

Battle scenes were a time-honored subject for capturing war’s general mayhem, and Homer effectively composed a number of works that illustrated this.

However, his real strength was in exploring the conflict’s periphery and the many contributions to the war effort that women made. He portrayed them supporting the North’s efforts by sewing Havelocks, a piece of fabric attached to enlisted men’s caps for sun protection; writing letters home for wounded soldiers; washing clothes behind the lines; and administering last rights. Another image showed women in a Massachusetts armory filling cartridges with gunpowder.

IF YOU GO Where: Shaffer Art Building on the Syracuse University campus.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Closed Mondays, university holidays and Easter Sunday (April 21).

Admission: Free.

More information: or 315-443- 4097.

Winslow Homer’s “The Morning Walk — The Young Ladies School Promenading the Avenue,” 1868 , is on exhibit at the Syracuse University Art Galleries through May 12. Winslow Homer

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