The history and episodes of the United States Civil Wars, the confrontation between the states of the North and the South, is widely known almost all over the world. And this is mainly due to an artistic medium through which it has spread to the entire planet: cinema. However, before those events were brought to celluloid, that war had already inspired artists from different artistic disciplines, such as literature or painting.
A rainy day at Camp Homer
One such artist was Winslow Homer (1836 – 1910). This painter began his career in the mid-nineteenth century working mainly as an illustrator in different magazines, which were experiencing an incredible boom at the time, especially those that included graphic material.
One of the magazines he collaborated with was the prestigiousHarper’s Weekly. This publication was the one that sent him in 1861 as a correspondent to the same war front in the state of Virginia. And during that trip, he not only made all the drawings that he was commissioned from the weekly, but also gathered a large amount of material that he would use over the following years, in which, in addition to commissioned drawings and illustrations, he also made different oil paintings.
An example of them is this painting A rainy day in thecamp that he painted ten years later, in 1871. A work that is currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
In this painting, as in others like it, Homer used notes and sketches taken on the battlefields and the front lines, and with them he composed more complex views by putting together the same canvas, scenes seen in different places.
Thus, here we see a group of soldiers in the foreground, gathered around the fire, waiting for the coffee to come out to warm up and recover from the intense cold. A scene that Homer liked, since in his paintings he prefers to dwell on the most human details, on the daily life of the soldiers, rather than on the most dramatic and even bloody moments.
For that reason, here he shows us in silence, as if absorbed in thought and remembering their homes, where at that very moment they would be warm and with their family, instead of out in the open, frozen with cold and in the rain. They and those sensations are the protagonists of the painting, while the camp remains in the background, almost as a set. Of course, with fidelity to how they could have been in terms of the type of tents, their placement or the way they were tied to the cavalry.