American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: Winslow Homer, American, 1836–1910

In Front of Yorktown

ca. 1863–66

Oil on canvas

13 1/4 × 19 1/2 in. (33.6 × 49.6 cm)
Gift of Samuel Rossiter Betts, B.A. 1875

As an artist-correspondent for Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War, Winslow Homer accompanied General George McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign, the first major Union army offensive. Here he shows five soldiers on picket duty at night. Such small groups were sent ahead of the main camp on the dangerous mission of raising an alert if the Confederate troops advanced. Warmed by the campfire, two men sleep, while the others are lost in thought. Homer’s careful placement of the tree puts the viewer in the position of a hidden observer, silently spying on the unaware men.

Made in Yorktown, Virginia, United States
On view
19th century

Samuel Rossiter Betts (1854–1931), New York; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1930


Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 3, 73, 156–57, 324, no. 94, ill.

Lucretia Hoover Giese and Roy Perkinson, “A Newly Discovered Drawing of Sharpshooters by Winslow Homer: Experience, Image , and Memory,” Winterthur Portfolio 45, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 84, fig. 20.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.