Having gained national attention with moving representations of the Civil War in the 1860s, many of which were published in Harper’s Weekly, Homer solidified his reputation as one of America’s finest painters with his portrayals of rural life in the ensuing decades. As the country began to rebuild during Reconstruction, Homer’s celebrations of simple American pleasures and pastimes captured the nation’s desire for a return to peace. In works such as the present drawing, Homer explores the unique connection that Americans had to the land, as well as the beauty of the countryside and the innocence of youth. Of this drawing, Abigail Booth Gerdts writes: “From the sharp truncation of [the figures on the verso]… at about knee-height, it would appear the sheet supporting his double-sided drawing was originally substantially larger. Considering the placement of his initialing on the recto of the drawing, it seems likely Homer trimmed the sheet himself, and favored his drawing of the reclining scyther” (Record of Works by Winslow Homer, New York, 2008, vol. III, p. 213). The theme of the scyther is one that reappears in Homer’s work, from paintings of the 1860s inspired by Jean-François Millet to veterans working the fields after returning home from war (fig. 1). This imagery was especially poignant in the post-Civil War period, evoking hope for rebirth and a return to the country’s agrarian roots.
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