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Tour: Winslow Homer, Slavery, and Race

Unidentified artist, after Winslow Homer, The Songs of the War, 1861. Wood engraving and letterpress on off-white laid paper. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of W. G. Russell Allen, M9297.


Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

Oliver Wunsch, of Boston College, will discuss how Winslow Homer’s wartime work explored race and slavery. This hourlong tour is offered in conjunction with the exhibition Winslow Homer: Eyewitness, on view at the Harvard Art Museums through January 5, 2020.

During the Civil War (1861–65), Homer served as a correspondent for Harper’s Weekly. 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 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, Homer developed habits of seeing and strategies that informed his work in other media. In addition to tracing these connections, the Winslow Homer: Eyewitness exhibition explores broader questions that Homer’s art raises about the responsibility of artists who work in periods riven by war and conflict.

Offered by:
Oliver Wunsch, Assistant Professor of Art History, Boston College; former Maher Curatorial Fellow of American Art (2018–19), Harvard Art Museums

Exhibition tours are offered through the run of the exhibition. Visit our calendar for more information about these and other related programs.

Free with museums admission. This tour is limited to 15 people and tickets are required. Ten minutes before the tour, tickets will become available at the admissions desk.

Please meet in the Calderwood Courtyard, in front of the digital screens between the shop and the admissions desk. Museums staff will be on hand to collect tickets.

Winslow Homer: Eyewitness is co-curated by Ethan W. Lasser, the former Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Curator of American Art and Head of the Division of European and American Art; and Makeda Best, the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography; with the assistance of Oliver Wunsch, the museums’ former Maher Curatorial Fellow of American Art (2018–19).

Support for the Winslow Homer 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.