The Civil War according to Winslow Homer

Murray Whyte’s “Seeing Winslow Homer and the fog of war in ‘Eyewitness’ ” (Sunday Arts, Oct. 6) is mistaken, I think, in its negative or, at best, ambiguous treatment of Homer’s attitude toward African-Americans and the meaning of the Civil War. One of Homer’s most significant paintings on the topic, “Near Andersonville” (1865-66) — not included in the show at the Harvard Art Museums, but surely worthy of mention in Whyte’s commentary — is a sensitive rendering of a black woman, no doubt a slave, somberly observing captured Union soldiers, who had tried to liberate the notorious hellhole of Andersonville Prison in Georgia, being marched to the prison themselves.

Those interested in the complex history and interpretation of this painting and of Homer’s treatment of race and the war would be well advised to look at Peter H. Wood’s “Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War.”


Paul M. Wright