The Civil War and American Art

Front Cover
Yale University Press, Dec 3, 2012 - Art - 316 pages
1 Review

The Civil War redefined America and forever changed American art. Its grim reality, captured through the new medium of photography, was laid bare. American artists could not approach the conflict with the conventions of European history painting, which glamorized the hero on the battlefield. Instead, many artists found ways to weave the war into works of art that considered the human narrative—the daily experiences of soldiers, slaves, and families left behind. Artists and writers wrestled with the ambiguity and anxiety of the Civil War and used landscape imagery to give voice to their misgivings as well as their hopes for themselves and the nation.

This important book looks at the range of artwork created before, during, and following the war, in the years between 1852 and 1877. Author Eleanor Jones Harvey surveys paintings made by some of America's finest artists, including Frederic Church, Sanford Gifford, Winslow Homer, and Eastman Johnson, and photographs taken by George Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy H. O'Sullivan. 

Harvey examines American landscape and genre painting and the new medium of photography to understand both how artists made sense of the war and how they portrayed what was a deeply painful, complex period in American history. Enriched by firsthand accounts of the war by soldiers, former slaves, abolitionists, and statesmen, Harvey's research demonstrates how these artists used painting and photography to reshape American culture. Alongside the artworks, period voices (notably those of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman) amplify the anxiety and dilemmas of wartime America. 


What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - NielsenGW - LibraryThing

From November 16, 2012 to April 28, 2013, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is sponsoring an exhibit designed to showcase American artists and photographers of the 1860s and how the American Civil ... Read full review

The Civil War and American Art

User Review  - Book Verdict

Harvey's (chief curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum; An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection) extensive catalog assesses the impact of a national cataclysm—the American Civil War—on ... Read full review


Landscapes and the Metaphorical
The Art of Wartime Photography
The Human Face of
Abolition and Emancipation
Catalogue of the Exhibition
Figure Illustrations

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

DIVEleanor Jones Harvey is senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her books include The Voyage of the Icebergs: Frederic Church's Arctic Masterpiece (Yale) and The Painted Sketch: American Impressions from Nature, 1830–1880./div