Winslow Homer and $7.50

I haven’t posted much since I started working and selling online. I have been busy with yard sales, estate sales and auctions and listings not to mention homeschooling and other crazy life changes. Yesterday I went to a living estate auction and watched a scythe sell with 2 bids for only $7.50  It wasn’t until the man was handed the tool that I realized it was REALLY old.  And that I had seen one before but just couldn’t remember right off where.

Then it hit me.  The scythe is in the Winslow Homer painting we studied a few years ago in Picturing America.  (By the way, I have a kit for sale on Amazon just like it for $80 prime if you’re interested.)

We loved this painting when we studied it because of the story behind it.  In The Veteran in a New Field, you learn:

“The optimistic spirit of Homer’s painting only makes its darker undertones more moving. The “new field” of the title can’t mean this field of grain, which is obviously mature and ready to harvest. It must refer instead to the change in the veteran’s occupation — which necessarily calls to mind his previous activity on the battlefield. Because some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War had been fought in wheat fields, fields of grain, in popular consciousness, were associated with fields of fallen soldiers. One particularly disturbing photograph of soldiers who had died in battle at Gettysburg was published with the title “A Harvest of Death.” In keeping with those undertones, Homer’s veteran handles a single-bladed scythe. By 1865, that simple farming implement was already out of date; a farmer would have used the more efficient cradle to mow a field that size. In the original version of the painting, the veteran did work with a cradled scythe (its outline is faintly visible on the left side of the canvas), but Homer evidently decided to paint it out. He replaced an emblem of modern technology with the more archaic tool, and gave a picture of a farmer in his field an unsettling reference to the work of the grim reaper, the age-old personification of death. ” Winslow Homer Picturing America

Winslow Homer and $7.50

Winslow Homer
“Veteran in a Field” Photo credit The Met

There is always a feeling of nostalgia and history that moves me when i go to an estate sale or auction of some soul’s personal possessions.  This tool was so cool to see first hand and the man who won the bid told me that it resells for over $100. You could see his deep appreciation for the scythe when I complimented his purchase.

It is the stories that creates that feeling.  i wouldn’t have thought another thing about that tool had we not simply learned about the history of it and the feelings of the times.

And don’t we all love stories?

Simple is how we studied it:  Over a week’s time we read the history about the painting, copied the painting with pencils or paint, and used picture study tips from Charlotte Mason for remembering and noticing details.

I highly recommend this United States Art study when your family studies American History.  It was one of the most meaningful art studies we have done in our homeschool as it weaved, through pictures and Americans, what was happening in our country at the time. It is well done. You could also just pick your own paintings and research them yourself.

What are your favorite paintings have you studied that had a story?



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