The Coming Storm: The Civil War and American Art” with Curator Eleanor Jones Harvey

  • Eleanor Jones Harvey, Curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, explores the intersections between American art, literature, and the Civil War. Dr. Harvey also provides an introduction to her major exhibition, The Civil War and American Art, a sweeping survey of the impact of the Civil War on American painting and photography, featuring artistic masterpieces and literary legends of the 19th century.

    The American Civil War was arguably the first modern war. Its grim reality, captured through the new medium of photography, was laid bare. American artists could not approach the conflict with the conventions of European history painting, which glamorized the hero on the battlefield. Instead, many artists found ways to weave the war into works of art that considered the human narrative—the daily experiences of soldiers, slaves, and families left behind. Artists and writers wrestled with the ambiguity and anxiety of the Civil War and used landscape imagery to give voice to their misgivings as well as their hopes for themselves and the nation.