Lecture Series: Picturing America's Past: The Civil War in Words and Images

September 12, 2012
Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m.
Farnsworth Auditorium

This three-part series will explore how the war that divided our country was depicted by painters, sculptors, photographers and authors. Each lecture will focus on a unique aspect of written and visual representations of the battlefields, camp life, and other arenas—both North and South. In this, the second year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the Farnsworth is presenting this series for all who recognize Maine’s important role in the war, and who wish to learn more about how the nation saw  the war through the eyes of America’s artists. The lectures will be especially relevant for public and private K-12 teachers, and they will take place in the Farnsworth auditorium.
To reserve individual lecture tickets, please click on the lecture title, or you may reserve the entire series on this page.

Lecture one—
Art of the Civil War: North and South
Wednesday, September 12, 5:30 p.m.

The Civil War was depicted by painters, sculptors and photographers on both sides of the conflict. Northern artists, with greater access to art supplies, galleries, publications and other outlets, were more prolific and visible. Southern artists recorded battles—real or imagined—on land and sea, but had limited means
to disseminate their work. The artwork conveyed the horrors of war to the home fronts on both sides. Ironically, one of the finest paintings of the war is by a French artist who never actually saw the sea battle he portrayed. In addition to wartime artwork, this lecture will examine the nation’s continuing fascination with the conflict through the work of such subsequent painters
as Edward Hopper and sculptors John Rogers and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Lecturer Stephen May is an independent historian and writer about art, culture and history for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He divides his time between Washington, D.C. and Union, Maine.

Lecture two— Capturing the Civil War:
Winslow Homer and Eastman Johnson
Wednesday, September 19, 5:30 p.m.

This lecture will begin with the run-up to the war in the North, where many, including Homer and Johnson, believed the conflict would end in a quick and easy victory. This bright vision was soon dimmed by the reality of the bloody battles,stretching on as they did for many years. As an embedded young artist with Northern troops working for Harper’s Weekly, Homer saw action but focused primarily on camp life, depicting camaraderie, leisure time, boredom, and the social role of African-Americans. Johnson painted some of the most poignant scenes of the antebellum and war years, such as Kitchen at Mount Vernon (1857), Negro Life at the South (1859) and A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves (c. 1862). Immediately after the war, the paintings by Homer and Johnson were laced with the sadness and the sense of loss that came from our national tragedy.
Lecture by Director of Education Roger Dell

Lecture three—
The Influence of the Civil War on Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr. and American Justice
Wednesday, September 26, 5:30 p.m.

As a young Union officer Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. experienced the violent conflict of the Civil War and was wounded three times. In the following decade he studied law and discussed philosophy with the formative American pragmatists William James, Charles Peirce and other members of the informal "Metaphysical Club" of Cambridge. This lecture will explore the influence of the Civil War on Holmes' philosophy of law and judicial career, and its relation to American pragmatism.
Lecturer Frederic R. Kellogg attended Harvard Law School and has a doctorate in Jurisprudence from George Washington.

Series reservations:
Farnsworth members $30
nonmembers $39

The Capture of New Orleans during the Civil War, lithograph by L. Prang & Co., 1886, after J. O. Davidson, © prang/PoodlesRock/Corbis
Phone Number: 
Price: $30.00