Athens, Ga. – Peter Wood, an author and former professor at Duke University, will present a lecture and book signing at the University of Georgia Museum of Art Feb. 24, at 5 p.m.
The presentation, entitled “Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War,” is based on Wood’s book of the same title published last fall by Harvard University Press. The lecture and autographing are free and open to the public. Wood’s book is based on his 2009 Huggins Lectures at Harvard University.
Wood studied at Harvard and Oxford and was a humanities officer for the Rockefeller Foundation before teaching colonial American history at Duke University from 1975 to 2008. He recently received the Asher Distinguished Teaching Award presented annually by the American Historical Association.
The UGA department of history and the Georgia Museum of Art organized the event.
According to Harvard University Press, “The admired American painter Winslow Homer rose to national attention during the Civil War. But one of his most important early images remained unknown for a century. The renowned artist is best known for depicting ships and sailors, hunters and fishermen, rural vignettes and coastal scenes. Yet, he also created some of the first serious black figures in American art. Near Andersonville (1865-66) is the earliest and least known of these impressive images.
“Peter Wood, a leading expert on Homer’s images of blacks, reveals the long-hidden story of this remarkable Civil War painting. His brisk narrative locates the picture in southwest Georgia in August 1864 and provides its military and political context. Wood underscores the agony of the Andersonville prison camp and highlights a huge but little-known cavalry foray ordered by General Sherman as he laid siege to Atlanta. Homer’s image takes viewers ‘behind enemy lines’ to consider the utter failure of Stoneman’s Raid from the perspective of an enslaved black Southerner.
“By examining the interplay of symbolic elements, Wood reveals a picture pregnant with meaning. He links it to Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign of 1864 and underscores the enduring importance of Homer’s thoughtful black woman. The painter adopted a bottom-up perspective on slavery and emancipation that most scholars needed another century to discover. By integrating art and history, Wood’s provocative study gives us a fresh vantage point on Homer’s early career, the struggle to end slavery, and the dramatic closing years of the Civil War.”