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Eastman Johnson
The Girl I Left Behind Me
1870–75
oil
42 x 34 7/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible in part by Mrs. Alexander Hamilton Rice in memory of her husband and by Ralph Cross Johnson



The title refers to a regimental ballad popular during the Civil War. Johnson had witnessed the battle of Manassas in 1862 and later made paintings that drew obliquely on his experiences at the front. Whether The Girl I Left Behind Me is a direct reflection on the war is unclear, but some see in the distant landscape the smoke of cannon and rifle fire. The painting may have had a personal meaning for Johnson, as he exhibited it in a major public art fair in 1875 but then held it privately in his studio until his death in 1906.