Visit Chicago's Only Major Sesquicentennial Civil War Exhibition

Through March 24, 2014


Frederic Edwin Church, Our Banner in the Sky, 1861. Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection.

Frederic Edwin Church, Our Banner in the Sky, 1861. Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection.

June 2013

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the US Civil War and in conjunction with the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Newberry Library is pleased to host “Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North,” an exhibition of more than 100 items that focuses on the enormous, and costly, effect the war had on civilians.

Highlights of the exhibition include stunning paintings by Winslow Homer, Frederic E. Church, and other American artists of the period; first editions by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Louisa May Alcott; sheet music from Chicago-based music publishers Root and Cady; and magazine illustrations that depict the changing roles of women and children who supported the war effort. “Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North” is co-organized by the Newberry and the Terra Foundation for American Art. The exhibition is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

“We’re pleased to partner with the Newberry on this exhibition examining the domestic side of life during the Civil War, an aspect of the era which generally receives less attention than the battlefields,” said Terra Foundation for American Art President and CEO Elizabeth Glassman. “Innovative projects like ‘Home Front’ are crucial to our mission of fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States.”

“Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North” will be open through March 24, 2014, making it one of the longest running exhibitions in the Newberry’s 126-year history. The exhibition comprehensively examines the culture of the Northern home front through visual materials that illustrate the war’s influence on household and the cotton economies; the ways in which the absence of young men from the home changed daily life; how war relief work linked home fronts and battle fronts; why Indians on the frontier were pushed out of the riven nation’s consciousness during the war years; and how wartime landscape paintings illuminated the nation’s past, present, and future.

“American history and culture is a core strength area of our collection and of scholarship pursued at the Newberry for many decades,” said Newberry President David Spadafora. “This is especially true of the Civil War era, which of course is a critical part of the American story. We are very grateful to the Terra Foundation for American Art, whose curatorial expertise, collection, and financial support have made it possible for us to host this important exhibition and related public programming.”

Throughout the exhibition’s duration, the Terra Foundation and the Newberry will host a series of Civil War-related programs and events, including:

Art History

Thursday, January 16, 6 pm

John Davis discusses “Race and Battlefield: Seeing and Not Seeing the Civil War”

Music of the Civil War

Saturday, March 1

Performance of period music from exhibition with expert commentary

Additional programming includes monthly curator gallery talks and a series of related adult seminars. All programs are free and open to the public, and require no advance registration.

“Today, many Americans view war at a great distance, mediated by technology that makes it possible to avoid thinking about how war effects our daily lives,” said Newberry Vice President of Research and Academic Programs and exhibition co-curator Daniel Greene. “This was simply not the case for those who remained at home during the Civil War. This exhibition is designed to help visitors understand the enormous and lasting effect of the Civil War on those who experienced the war at home, as well as on the entire country.”

In conjunction with the exhibition opening, the University of Chicago Press has published a companion volume to “Home Front,” which is the first book to explore the visual culture of a world far removed from the horror of war, yet intimately bound to it. The book includes a foreword by award-winning Civil War scholar Adam Goodheart and essays by five humanities scholars, including exhibition co-curators Greene and Peter John Brownlee, Associate Curator at the Terra Foundation.

“The exhibition represents a beautiful marriage of objects from two well-regarded Chicago collections to address a subject of critical importance,” Brownlee said. “The pairing of fine and popular arts from the period makes this exhibition unique among others that examine the war and its impact.”

The other three book authors are: Sarah Burns, Ruth N. Halls professor emerita, history of art, Indiana University, Bloomington; Diane Dillon, director of scholarly and undergraduate programs, the Newberry; and Scott Manning Stevens, director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies, the Newberry.

Established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States. With financial resources of more than $250 million, an exceptional collection of American art from the colonial era to the mid-twentieth century, and an expansive grant program, it is one of the leading foundations focused on American art, and devotes approximately $12 million annually in support of American art exhibitions, projects, and research worldwide.