Winslow Homer is, in my opinion, America’s greatest artist. There are many fine artists, but none, to my mind, could present both technical expertise and a multi-layered story as well as Homer could. Many painters produce fine images, subject matter that is pleasant to view, and for which people are eager to purchase a copy to display. However, few have been able to tell a story as well as Homer.
For example, here is a simple image of his, entitled “Boys in a Pasture”
Now, most folks see two youg boys relaxing in a green field, under a warm summer sun. It’s an accurate description, but there’s a story there too. The two boys are Billy Yank & Johnny Reb. The closer boy is wearing the light blue trousers of the Federal uniform, while the other is wearing trousers made from butternut jeans-cloth, as the Confederacy issued. Note, as well, the good black hat of the Union boy, and the straw of the Southerner. Both are wearing similar shirts, signifying how much alike they were.
Those two boys represent the flower of America’s youth, lost forever in a terrible Civil War. They will always be youmg, and always be there, in the fields where they fell, often side by side. In the background is a tree, quite like the Copse of Trees on Cemetary Ridge at Gettysburg, with the fields stretching up to it. On the right, in the distance is a smudge of red clay, looking like the Confederate earthworks at Spotsylvania. In the lower left is a patch of turned earth, plowed up by a shell, or maybe turned over to fill a grave.
These two young men would likely have had much in common, would have been good friends in another time, but their innocence was lost forever because older men couldn’t settle their differences through honest debate.
The boys are looking away from the viewer, off towards the distance. They cannot see us anymore, but we can see their image and ponder what might have been, what should have been, and what a terrible price we all paid.
Thanks to my new friends at Threedonia for the inspiration for this post. They have a GREAT site with Great commentators and you ought to swing by and say hello!.