Winslow Homer
Home Sweet Home, c. 1863
Oil on canvas
21 1/2 x 16 1/2 in. (54.6 x 41.9 cm)
Patrons’ Permanent Fund 1997.72.1
Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

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This Civil War scene depicts two Union infantrymen pausing at their campsite in a moment of quiet reflection to listen to the nearby military band play the song “Home, Sweet Home.” Numerous contemporary accounts describe the musical exchanges between neighboring Union and Confederate camps, which often ended with a rendition of this anthem played in unison, prompting a unifying enthusiasm in both camps. The song was a universal reminder of each soldier’s deeply personal cause of fighting to establish American democratic ideals and to protect his home and family. Both the ballad and the painting emphasize the ordinary struggles of the soldier, who longed for the comforts of home amid the temporary space of a sparse campsite and meager provisions. Far from a heroic or idealized vision of battle, Homer’s painting provides an authentic and unsentimental portrayal of soldiers’ downtime during the bloodiest war in the history of the United States.
Select facts derived from the www.NGA.gov collection object page: Home Sweet Home; Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. and Franklin Kelly, Winslow Homer. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 1995).

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