This Mighty Scourge of War

Alexander Gardner, Ruins of the Arsenal, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865, Albumen print. Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund.

Alexander Gardner, Ruins of the Arsenal, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865, Albumen print. Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund.

The exhibition “This Mighty Scourge of War: Art of the American Civil War” brings together paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s collection, depicting the diversity of ways in which artists responded to the Civil War.

Curated by museum co-director Frank Goodyear, the exhibition features six of Winslow Homer’s many wood engravings, which became the dominant illustrations of the war through widely-read publications such as Harper’s Weekly. While Homer portrayed poignant scenes of daily life (both on the front lines and at home), other artists such as Martin Heade and Jervis McEntee infused the war into the their paintings metaphorically through storm-filled skies and other symbols of unrest.

Civil War art also took the form of photography, still a fledgling technology in the 1860s. Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan were among those pioneering photojournalism by recording the aftermaths of battles and scenes of wartime culture. Other photographers traveled west to capture images of idyllic landscapes as a point of contrast with the war-torn east.

With work from these and other Civil War artists, “This Mighty Scourge of War” showcases the rich artistic legacy of a troubled time. First unveiled on August 8 in conjunction with the 2013 Bowdoin Alumni College, the exhibition will remain open to visitors until January 5, 2014.

Check out the recent Fall 2013 issue of Bowdoin Magazine for a new inquiry into Bowdoin’s contributions to the Civil War.

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