Middlebury College Museum of Art


Prints and Prejudice: Woodcuts and Artifacts of the American Civil War

September 4–December 13, 2009

This fall, the Middlebury College Museum of Art presents a Civil War exhibition of art and material culture featuring seventy original woodcuts from Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Selected from thousands of prints published by these periodicals during the Civil War, the carefully culled woodcuts include several famous images by Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast, as well as a number of prints by anonymous artists.

Thematically arranged, the woodcuts illustrate and explore the passion and excitement of going to war, the routine and camaraderie of camp life, the death and destruction of the battlefield, the demonization of the enemy, the courage and sacrifices of the black soldier, and, finally, the joys and anxieties of going home at the war’s end.

Extensive narrative labels drawing upon contemporary letters, journals, and newspaper reports provide an historic context for viewing these Civil War images. The woodcuts will also be viewed in conjunction with a display of related Civil War artifacts ranging from muskets and weaponry to letters and photographs. A comprehensive and innovative timeline of dates, quotations, and images will provide an additional artistic and cultural context for the visitor. This unusual and poignant exhibition of art, material culture, and interpretive analysis, although small in scale, will challenge viewers to see the war and perhaps themselves in a new light.

The exhibition, titled Prints and Prejudice: Woodcuts and Artifacts of the American Civil War, has been researched and organized by the students of Professor Christopher Wilson’s First Year Seminar,The Art and Life of Winslow Homer. Opening on Fri., Sept. 4, the exhibition will be on view through the fall term ending Sun., Dec. 13.

Professor Wilson will give a public talk on the evolution of the exhibition on Thurs., Oct. 22, in Room 221 of the Mahaney Center for the Arts.


Winslow Homer, Army of the Potomac: A Sharpshooter on Picket Duty, from Harper’s Weekly, November 15, 1862, 9 x 13 5/8 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art, 1986.006.