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A Holiday in Pictures: The Thanksgiving-Related Works of Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer’s illustrations, paintings and prints helped define and document 19th century American history. His works are remembered for their realistic portrayal of the American scene. Celebrated for his paintings such as Women Working in a Field and The Brierwood Pipe in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection, Homer created narrative illustrations in his early career for popular magazines and publications.
His wood engravings also enhanced articles in both Harper’s Weekly and Harper’s Bazaar. These images had a great impact on the consciousness of the American public and communicated the simple truths of the country: history, culture, and morals.
In addition to the works mentioned above, several of his prints related to Thanksgiving are within the museum collection. Thanksgiving Day—Ways and Means in the November 27, 1858, issue of Harper’s Weekly, featured the playful pursuit of the Thanksgiving turkey. During the Civil War,
Homer and other illustrators contributed scenes of Thanksgiving in the field where soldiers were doing their best to observe the holiday. In 1862, he published Thanksgiving in Camp in Harper’s Weekly, which depicts a sutler’s tent and brush arbor in which men received pies and drink for the holiday. The war’s close was duly celebrated in 1865 by Winslow Homer in Thanksgiving Day—The Church Porch, showing veterans, some with missing limbs, attending Thanksgiving Day services with their families. In Thanksgiving Day—Hanging Up the Musket, a returning soldier hangs a musket marked “1861” beneath th!
e remains of an old gun labeled “1776.”
Homer’s works have been featured in Cleveland Museum of Art exhibitions in 1917, 1924, 1946, 1965, and 1990.
-- Kesha Williams