Museum presents lecture about Winslow Homer’s Civil War

Museum presents lecture about Winslow Homer’s Civil War

The Cape Ann Museum is pleased to present Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War with Peter Wood, Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University on Saturday, November 12 at 3:00 p.m. Professor Wood gives us a fresh vantage point on Winslow Homer’s early career, the struggle to end slavery and the dramatic closing years of the War Between the States. This program is presented in honor of Veterans’ Day and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. This program is $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. To make a reservation or for more information, please call Jeanette Smith at 978-283-0455, x11 or email

The admired American painter Winslow Homer rose to national attention during the Civil War. But one of his most important early images remained unknown for a century. The renowned artist is best known for depicting Gloucester ships and sailors, hunters and fishermen, rural vignettes and coastal sense. Yet he also created some of the first serious black figures in American art. Near Andersonville (1865 -66) is the earliest and least known of these impressive images.

Peter Wood, a leading expert on Homer’s images of blacks, reveals the long-hidden story of this remarkable Civil War painting. His brisk narrative locates the picture in southwest Georgia in August 1864 and provides its military and political context. Wood underscores the agony of the Andersonville prison camp and highlights a huge but little-known cavalry foray ordered by General Sherman as he laid siege to Atlanta. Homer’s image takes viewers ‘behind enemy lines’ to consider the utter failure of ‘Stoneman’s Raid’ from the perspective of an enslaved black Southerner.

By examining the interplay of symbolic elements, Wood reveals a picture pregnant with meaning. He links it to Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign of 1864 and underscores the enduring importance of Homer’s thoughtful black woman. The painter adopted a bottom-up perspective on slavery and emancipation that most scholars needed another century to discover. By integrating art and history, Wood’s provocative study gives us a fresh vantage point on Homer’s early career, the struggle to end slavery and the dramatic closing years of the Civil War.

Historian Peter Wood grew up in St. Louis and Baltimore, and he received his scholarly training at Harvard and at Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar in 1964. He worked as a Humanities Officer for the Rockefeller Foundation before teaching colonial American history at Duke University from 1975 to 2008. Professor Wood recently received the Asher Distinguished Teaching Award that is given annually by the American Historical Association. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, an Andrew Mellon Senior Scholar, and an elected member of the Harvard Board of Overseers. Now retired, he lives in Hillsborough North Carolina, where he is, among other things, a member of the American Gourd Society.

Wood is the author of several widely used books on early American slavery, Black Majority and Strange New Land, and he is the co-author of an important U.S. History survey text entitled Created Equal, now in its third edition. In 1988, he worked with art scholar Karen Dalton on the path-breaking exhibition and book entitled Winslow Homer’s Images of Blacks: The Civil War and Reconstruction Years, and he is the author of Weathering the Storm: Inside Winslow Homer’s ‘Gulf Stream.’ Dr. Wood’s newest book, based on his 2009 Huggins Lectures at Harvard University, is entitled Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War. This year marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War, which has sent Professor Wood around the country discussing his book. Earlier this year Professor Wood spoke at the National Archives and the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.; the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the University of Minnesota, and other schools and museums across the country. His trip to the Northeast includes speaking engagements at Bowdoin College, Brunswick Maine and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, two places as familiar with Winslow Homer as Cape Ann.

Funding for this program was made possible through a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which promotes excellence, access, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences, in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and to contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.

The Cape Ann Museum is located at 27 Pleasant Street in Gloucester. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Museum is closed during the month of February, on Mondays, and on major holidays. Admission is $8.00 adults, $6.00 Cape Ann residents, seniors and students. Children under 12 and Museum members are free. The Museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information please call: (978) 283-0455. Additional information can be found online at