Saturday in the Museum with Winslow

Image: Winslow Homer, The Veteran in a New Field (1865).

We return to the subject of harvest paintings for the Saturday art posts we do on this site. We also do paintings from Homer back-to-back with this post. Last week’s was obscure, this one is among his most famous and emotionally resonant.

Painted in 1865, after the surrender of Lee and the death of Lincoln, the painting shows a veteran of the U.S. Army, signified by the coat in the lower right corner, plowing a field with a scythe. Close examination of the painting indicates that Homer originally painted a different type of scythe, but he changed it to be one more evocative of the “grim reaper” iconography. Death haunts the piece though it is full of bright light and golden grain. The cost of war seems to rest on the shoulders of the solitary figure left with his thoughts in the field. The Veteran in a New Field is in the collection of the Met.

The painting also has a current-day resonance. Golden grain under a blue sky is the same color scheme that inspired the Ukrainian flag. One of the hallmarks of the war in Ukraine is that the battles often take place in the same field that the soldiers would be harvesting. When the war is over, they will not be different, or “new” to use Homer’s word, fields. They will be the same fields they are currently fighting in with all the pockmarks and detritus of the invading army’s damage a constant reminder. So posting this painting today is not only in keeping with the season, it matches the week that marks eight months since the Russians began their renewed destruction of Ukraine. This Post piece lists several organizations that you can donate to. There is always World Central Kitchen, that is provided relief as soon as towns are being liberated. If you are in Adams Morgan, you can drop a few bucks in the jar for donations at the Ukrainian-owned D Light Cafe.


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