WOOD ENGRAVINGS AS HISTORICAL ILLUSTRATION

Historians use Homer’s wood engravings to illustrate studies of American politics, war, and daily life. Art historians study them for insights into the young artist’s career and the visual culture in which he lived. Separate from these professional realms, everyday viewers can appreciate the great diversity of Homer’s subjects and create many different narratives with his images.

Homer gained great fame for his Civil War engravings. Aside from the Civil War, however, Homer rarely reported on “news.” He focused instead on such human-interest topics as middle-class leisure or the routines of rural life. He also illustrated popular literature. As Sterling Clark recognized, the engravings provide insight into “the life of the times,” and numerous historians have constructed compelling stories with them.

New-England Factory Life—Bell-Time, publ. Harper’s Weekly, 1868

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