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


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.