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Article: Home Sweet Home (Painting)

Home Sweet Home (Painting)

Home Sweet Home (Painting)

Artwork available to Buy as a Digital Print

According to the National Gallery of Art: In Winslow Homer's 1863 painting, two union soldiers (infantrymen, as the insignia on their caps show) listen as the regimental band plays "Home, Sweet Home."

In what might almost be a description of Homer's painting, and of the kind of experiences Homer himself must have had when he visited the front in 1861 and 1862. Union General Nelson A. Miles described an occurrence in the valley of the Rappahannock:

"Late in the afternoon our bands were accustomed to play the most spirited martial and national airs, as Columbia, America, E. Pluribus Unum, and The Star-Spangled Banner, to be answered along the Confederate lines by bands playing, with equal enthusiasm, The Bonny Blue Flag, Southern Rights, and Dixie. These demonstrations frequently aroused the hostile sentiments of the two armies, yet the animosity disappeared when at the close some band would strike up that melody which comes nearest the hearts of all true men - Home, Sweet Home - and every band within hearing would join in that sacred anthem with unbroken accord and enthusiasm."

The title of Homer's painting evokes the "bitter moment of home-sickness and love-longing" that the song inspired in the soldiers. The title also refers to the soldiers' "home", shown with all of its domestic details - a small pot on a smoky fire, a tin plate holding a single piece of hardtack - which Homer, who did the cooking and washing when he was at the front, knew intimately, and which, with surely intended irony, are very far from "sweet".

Artist: Winslow Homer
Date: 1863
Original medium: Oil on canvas
Orientation: Vertical/Portrait
Image restored & enhanced by Rebel Seed Studio