To the Home Page of the National Humanities Center Web Site National Humanities Center Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature  contact us | site guide | search 
Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Memory: Civil War Memory and American Nostalgia
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Memory
Text 1. Winslow Homer
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 2. Hamlin Garland
Text 3. Joel Chandler Harris
Text 4. Jane Addams
Text 5. Robert G. Ingersoll
Text 6. Re-Union and the Railroad
Text 7. Visions of the West
Text 8. Owen Wister

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
1.
Winslow Homer, The Veteran in a New Field
Winslow Homer, The Veteran in a New Field, oil on canvas, 1865  Discussing Art

We begin with a painting from 1865, well outside of the period under consideration but included to introduce the Civil War into the discussion. It is important to do so because the War and its memory influenced virtually every aspect of the era.

Winslow Homer was born in Boston in 1836 and grew up in Cambridge. He moved to New York in 1859 and lived there until 1883, when he moved to Maine where he lived until his death in 1910. Homer was intensely interested in the Civil War. In 1861 Harper's Weekly sent him to Virginia to create images of the War, which critic Robert Hughes has praised as "the most truthful visual record of the Civil War, outside of photography, that has come down to us." In The Veteran in a New Field, one of Homer's most poignant and evocative paintings, a former Union soldier—note the jacket and canteen in the lower right-hand corner of the picture—is harvesting wheat with a scythe. 1 page.


Discussion questions
  1. What sort of America has the veteran returned to?
  2. What associations would a wheat field suggest to a Civil War veteran?
  3. What does the painting suggest about the veteran's postwar life?
  4. The scythe in the painting was old-fashioned even in 1865. How might a viewer in 1865 respond to it as both a symbol and a farm implement?
  5. Compare The Veteran in a New Field with Garland's "The Return of a Private." (See below.)
  6. How does this painting look back and look ahead?

» Link


Topic Framing Questions
  •  In the aftermath of the Civil War, how did Americans look back and look forward?
  •  During this period, how did Americans promote the re-union of the nation?
  •  How did they reconceptualize their sense of national identity?


Winslow Homer, The Veteran in a New Field, 1865. Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 38 1/8 in. (61.3 x 96.9 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876-1967), 1967: 67.187.131. Permission pending.

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire


Contact Us | Site Guide | Search


Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
National Humanities Center
Web site comments and questions, contact: lmorgan@nationalhumanitiescenter.org
Copyright © 2005 National Humanities Center. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 2005
nationalhumanitiescenter.org