Winslow Homer
American (1836-1910)

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The Army Of The Potomac—Our Outlying Picket In The Woods (Harper’s Weekly, June 7, 1862) 
Wood engraving 
Gift of Irwin Steinberg, 1998.10.23 

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A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac (Harper’s Weekly, December 21, 1861) 
Wood engraving 
Gift of Irwin Steinberg, 1998.10.2 

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Rebels Outside Their Works At Yorktown Reconnoitring With Dark Lanterns (Harper’s Weekly, May 17, 1862) 
Wood engraving 
Gift of Irwin Steinberg, 1998.10.6 

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Winter-Quarters in Camp—The Inside Of A Hut (Harper’s Weekly, January 24, 1863) 
Wood engraving 
Gift of Irwin Steinberg, 1998.10.24 

A confluence of factors contributed to the birth of visual journalism during the American Civil War (1861-65), including innovations in wood engraving technology, an expanded middle class hungry for news, and the significance of the war itself. Homer made the drawings that served as the basis for these illustrations as an artist-reporter embedded with Union troops. He documented scenes of battle as well as camp life for Harper’s Weekly Illustrated, one of a handful of illustrated newspapers that visualized the conflict, which became the first with widespread illustrated representation. 

 

Homer sent his sketches from military posts to Harper’s New York office. The drawings were translated for the paper into wood engravings by a team of technicians, with larger images broken up into small blocks so multiple engravers could work on the same illustration to speed up the process. Publishers used the end grain of hardwood for the engravings, yielding thin delicate lines and detailed images. The wood blocks were then transferred to a metal plate using a mold and printed.