The Veteran in a New Field (Painting)
Artwork Available to Buy as a Digital Print
Artist Winslow Homer completed The Veteran in a New Field in 1865, just months after the end of the Civil War.
It depicts a veteran farmer harvesting wheat in a field with a scythe. The farmer is identified as a former Union Soldier from his discarded jacket and canteen - covered by wheat and barely visible - in the right foreground of the painting.
The image is considered highly symbolic. Some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War were fought in wheat fields, and in the popular conscience, fields of grain were associated with fallen soldiers. One particularly well-known and disturbing photograph of soldiers who had died at Gettysburg was published with the title "Harvest of Death".
According to Wikipedia: One of the important aspects of the painting is the scythe the veteran holds. This scythe has invited comparison with the Grim Reaper, the famous harbinger of death. This emphasizes the farmer's past as a soldier, and war's connection to death. The presence of the veteran harvesting the wheat parallels the massive loss of life in the Civil War and the "harvesting" of bodies that took place.
Additionally, the use of wheat as a crop is an important aspect of the painting's commentary on mortality. Wheat had historically been placed on coffins, connecting the crop with death. The veteran is surrounded by wheat, which is sometimes seen as a reminder that the soldier had been surrounded by death during his time at war. Alternatively, the presence of wheat may symbolize the North, as wheat is a northern crop, and was often used on patriotic images during the Civil War period.
Artist: Winslow Homer
Original medium: Oil on canvas
Image restored & enhanced by Rebel Seed Studio