Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Pitching Quoits is Homer’s first large-scale painting of the Civil War. It depicts a moment of leisure in a Union encampment. The game of quoits was ordinarily played with heavy metal rings, but the soldiers here improvise with readily available horseshoes as the seated figure in the center keeps score. The red tasseled caps, blue filigreed jackets, and baggy trousers identify the soldiers as members of the 5th New York Volunteer infantry, known as Duryee’s Zouaves. The regiment derived its name and uniforms from the original Zouaves, Algerian mercenaries who gained fame fighting for the French in the Crimean War (1853–56).

Though the regiment lost three-fifths of its ranks in a single battle in 1862, Homer does not explicitly acknowledge the atrocities of the war. With their vacant stares and static postures, the soldiers underscore the boredom of life in camp and the exhaustion experienced in the long intervals between battles.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Winslow Homer, American (Boston, MA 1836 - 1910 Prouts Neck, ME)
Pitching Quoits
Other Titles
Former Title: The Quoit Players
Former Title: Zouaves Pitching Quoits
Former Title: Pitching Horsehoes
Work Type
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2120, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Lure of the East
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
68 x 136.5 cm (26 3/4 x 53 3/4 in.)
frame: 99.1 x 167.6 x 9.2 cm (39 x 66 x 3 5/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r.: WINSLOW HOMER NY / 1865
Winslow Homer, sold [through Miner and Somerville, New York, 1866, American Artists Sale]. Abijah Curtiss, Yonkers-on-Hudson, NY, circa 1870-73 [1], by descent; to Frederic H. Curtiss, Boston, MA, by 1911 [2], gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1940

[1] The date of acquisition of this painting by Abijah Curtiss (1831-1888) was variously stated by his son, Frederic H. Curtiss (1869-1967). In correspondence relating to his gift, Frederic H. Curtiss first stated that the painting had been in his family "since sometime before 1870, having been bought by my father" (November 13, 1940). He later wrote that it "was purchased before 1873" (January 3, 1944).

[2] Abijah Curtiss did not bequeath "Pitching Quoits" directly to his son Frederic H. Curtiss in his will (probated August 7, 1888). Therefore, it must have descended in the family. In 1911, William Howe Downes listed Frederic H. Curtiss as the owner of "Pitching Quoits."
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic Haines Curtiss
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

“A Visit to the Studios. What the Artists are Doing", New York Evening Post (February 16, 1865), p. 1, p. 1

George Arnold, “Art Matters", New York Leader (March 11, 1865), p. 5, p. 5

George Arnold, “Art Matters”, New York Leader (June 3, 1865), p. 1, p. 1

“Fine Arts. National Academy of Design. Concluding Notice", The Albion (June 17, 1865), vol. 43, no. 24, p. 285, p. 285

Russell Sturgis, “Fine Arts. The Fortieth Annual Exhibition of the National Academy of Design. Second Notice", The Nation (July 13, 1865), vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 56-59, pp. 58-59

“National Academy of Design. Fortieth Annual Exhibition", New Path (June 1865), vol. 2, no. 6, pp. 85-104, p. 104

Proteus, “National Academy of Design. Fortieth Annual Exhibition”, New York Commercial Advertiser (March 22, 1865)

Sordello and Eugene Benson, “National Academy of Design. Fortieth Annual Exhibition”, New York Evening Post (May 31, 1865), p. 1, p. 1

“National Academy of Design. South Room”, New York Times (June 13, 1865), p. 5, p. 5

“National Academy of Design. Third Article”, Watson's Weekly Art Journal (June 3, 1865), vol. 3, p. 3, p. 3

“Sale of Pictures by American Artists", New York Evening Post (April 20, 1866), p. 2, p. 2

“Sale of Pictures", New York Evening Post (April 19, 1866), p. 3, p. 3

William Howe Downes, The Life and Works of Winslow Homer, Houghton Mifflin Company (Boston, MA and New York, NY, 1911), pp. 52-53, 82

[Unidentified article], Art Digest (October 1, 1937), p. 8, ill.

Lloyd Goodrich, Winslow Homer, MacMillan (New York, NY, 1944), p. 21, pl. 5

A Loan Exhibition of Winslow Homer for the Benefit of the New York Botanical Garden, exh. cat., Wildenstein & Company (New York, 1947), p. 32, cat. no. 2, repr.

American Processional, 1492-1900, exh. cat., The National Capital Sesquicentennial Commission and Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC, 1950), p. 248, cat. 251, ill. p. 175

American Processional: 1492-1950, exh. cat., Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C, 1950), reproduced

Young America, Artists Under Forty, exh. cat., Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (Waltham, MA, 1954), no. 6

"Sport in Art", Time [magazine] (November 14, 1955)

American Federation of Arts, Sport in Art: From American Collections Assembled in an Olympic Year, exh. cat. (New York, NY, 1955), no. 50 (not reproduced)

Winslow Homer: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C, 1958)

Hermann W. Williams, The Civil War: The Artists' Record, exh. cat., Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C., 1961)

Albert Ten Eyck Gardner, Winslow Homer, American Artist: His World and His Work, C. N. Potter (New York, NY, 1961), reproduced p. 41

Bruce Catton, This Hallowed Ground: The Story of the Union Side of the Civil War; Special Illustrated Edition for Young Readers, Doubleday & Co. (Garden City, NY, 1962), reproduced in color p. 102

Highlights from the Collections of the Fogg Museum and Harvard Alumni of St. Louis, exh. cat., City Art Museum of St. Louis (St. Louis, 1964), cat. 4

M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and San Francisco Museum of Art, Man: The Glory, Jest, and Riddle; A Survey of the Human Form through the Ages, exh. cat. (1964)

The Painter and the New World: Le peintre et le nouveau monde: A Survey of Painting from 1564 to 1867, Marking the Founding of the Canadian Confederation, exh. cat., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, Canada, 1967), cat. 243, ill.

Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), cat. 69, ill.

John Wilmerding, Winslow Homer, Praeger Publishers (New York, NY, 1972), pp. 43-44. reproduced in color plate III

Julian Grossman, Echo of a Distant Drum: Winslow Homer and the Civil War, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1974), pp. 107-113, 145-146, 149, 172

Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Winslow Homer, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1979), pps. 50, 58; fig. 72, b/w; p. 57; CL-268, p. 297

Lucretia Hoover Giese, "Winslow Homer: Painter of the Civil War" (Ph.D Diss., Harvard University, 1985), Unpublished, pp. 313-320

Lucretia Hoover Giese, "Winslow Homer's Civil War Painting 'The Initials,' a Little-Known Drawing and Related Works", American Art Journal (1986), vol. XVIII, no. 3, pp. 4-19., p. 16, fig. 11

Abigail Booth Gerdts, Winslow Homer in Monochrome, exh. cat., Knoedler & Co. Inc. (New York, NY, 1986), p. 19

Lucretia Hoover Giese, "Prisoners from the Front: An American History Painting?", Winslow Homer: Paintings of the Civil War, ed. Marc A. Simpson, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA, 1988), no. 14, pps. 209-215; reproduced in color p. 208

Doreen Bolger and Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., American Art Around 1900: Lectures in Honor of Daniel Fraad, National Gallery of Art/University Press of New England (Hanover, NH, 1990), reproduced in b/w p. 99

Mark Neely and Harold Holzer, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Civil War in Art, Orion Books (New York, NY, 1993), p. 284-285, reproduced in color

Timothy Anglin Burgard, American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1994), p. 11, cat. 55

Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. and Franklin Kelly, Winslow Homer, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art/Yale University Press (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, CT and London, England, 1995), reproduced in color, p. 54, no. 9

James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), p. 186, ill. p. 187

Henry Lie, Straus Center for Conservation Annual Report 1994-1995 (1996), p. 46

Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Lloyd Goodrich and Abigail Booth Gerdts, Record of Works by Winslow Homer, Spanierman Gallery (New York, 2005-2014), vol. 1, pp. 125, 289-292, 328-329, no. 266, repr. p. 329, repr. in color p. 383

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Virginia Anderson, and Kimberly Orcutt, ed., American Paintings at Harvard, Volume Two, Paintings, Drawings, Pastels and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, 2008), p. 147, cat. no. 113, reproduced in color

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), ill. p. 153

Margaret C. Conrads, Bruce Robertson, and Metropolitan Museum of Art / Yale University Press, American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915, exh. cat., ed. Helen Barbara Weinberg and Carrie Rebora Barratt (New Haven and London, 2009), p. 84-5, fig. 79, ill.

Allen Guttmann, Sports and American Art From Benjamin West to Andy Warhol, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Amherst, MA, 2011), p. 96, repr. as plate 11

Ethan Lasser, "The Artist as Journalist", The Magazine Antiques (November/December 2019), pp. 86-93, pp. 88-89, repr. as fig. 3

Exhibition History

Annual Exhibition, 1865, National Academy of Design, New York, 04/27/1865 - 07/01/1865

Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Winslow Homer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 02/08/1911 - 03/08/1911

Sport in American Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 01/01/1944 - 12/31/1944

A Loan Exhibition of Works by Winslow Homer for the Benefit of the New York Botanical Gardens, Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 02/19/1947 - 03/22/1947

American Processional: 1492-1900, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 01/01/1950 - 12/31/1950

Young America: Artists Under Forty, Brandeis University, Waltham, 06/06/1954 - 06/20/1954

Sport in Art, Time-Life Building, New York, 10/31/1955 - 11/04/1955; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 11/15/1955 - 12/15/1955; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 01/05/1956 - 01/30/1956; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, 02/14/1956 - 03/10/1956; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, 03/25/1956 - 04/20/1956; Denver Art Museum, Denver, 05/05/1956 - 05/30/1956; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 06/15/1956 - 07/10/1956; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 07/28/1956 - 09/09/1956; Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, 10/08/1956 - 10/28/1956

American Paintings from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Symphony Hall, Boston, 02/21/1958 - 03/15/1958

Winslow Homer: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 11/23/1958 - 01/04/1959; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 01/29/1959 - 03/08/1959; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 03/26/1959 - 05/03/1959

The Civil War, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 11/04/1961 - 12/17/1961; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 01/11/1962 - 02/25/1962

Highlights from the Collection of the Fogg Art Museum and Harvard Alumni of St. Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 01/30/1964 - 03/01/1964

Man: The Glory, Jest, and Riddle, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 11/09/1964 - 01/03/1965

The Painter and the New World, Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Montreal, 06/08/1967 - 07/30/1967

American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972

Winslow Homer, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 04/03/1973 - 06/24/1973; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 07/03/1973 - 08/15/1973; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 09/08/1973 - 10/21/1973

Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977

Winslow Homer: Paintings of the Civil War, Museum of Fine Arts, Portland, Portland, 10/09/1988 - 12/18/1988; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, 01/07/1989 - 03/12/1989

American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994

Winslow Homer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 02/21/1996 - 05/26/1996

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/05/2009 - 01/24/2010

Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2120 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 07/12/2018; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/04/2020 - 01/01/2050

Winslow Homer: Eyewitness, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/31/2019 - 01/05/2020

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