About The Painting

The Veteran in a New Field was painted in 1865 by American artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910), Oil on Canvas. 

Winslow Homer, American Artist

Painted soon after General Lee's surrender to General Grant at Appamatox (April 1865) and the assassination of President Lincoln, Homer's canvas is brimming with symbolism and metaphor:

  • The farmer is a Union veteran, distinguished by his discarded canteen and jacket off to the bottom right of the painting
  • Many of the soldiers of the Civil War were farmers before and after the conflict
  • The veteran returning to his former occupation indicated that life - after the war - would return to normal and go on
  • Many of the major battles of the Civil War were fought on fields, including the Battle of Gettysburg
  • The use of the scythe brings to mind the Grim Reaper.  In this sense, the fallen wheat symbolizes the thousands of men whose lives were cut down in the fields of war
  • The collective grief of the nation over Abraham Lincoln's death is also evoked by the presence of the scythe in the piece
  • The foreground of the painting represents the past, while - ahead of the veteran - awaits a bountiful harvest and blue skies...hope for the future
  • Bountiful wheat - a northern crop - might connote the Union's victory
  • With its dual references to death and life, Homer's iconic composition offers a powerful meditation on America's sacrifices and its potential recovery

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org)

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