Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Civil War in Art
by Harold Holzer and Mark E. Neely, Jr., Orion Books, 336 pages
What happens when you take hundreds of artists, from the most mediocre to Winslow Homer, train them in a tradition of military art that prizes the grand and the heroic, and then send them out to paint an often harrowingly ugly, brutal war between brothers? That, in effect, is the question asked by this collaboration by two leading Lincoln scholars, one of them a Pulitzer Prize winner. They have amassed and reproduced in color some 280 paintings of the war; they write in their introduction that “we considered them as part of a great effort to comprehend the Civil War, and the opportunity for comparison offered by this approach revealed meanings in the works about which we had never before read.”
The authors arranged the paintings not chronologically but by categories—landscape art, marine art, cycloramas, home-front scenes, art about blacks, and more—with essays on each variety. The result is not only a handsome volume and authoritative collection of images but also an enlightening study of how the war changed art and art changed the perception of war.