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3/12/2011 Houston—The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial with an annual lecture and small-scale displays in the American galleries through 2014. On Thursday evening, March 17, Dr. Peter H. Wood, professor emeritus at Duke University, will present the lecture Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War at the MFAH. The 2011 display, War Memories: Images of the Civil War, opens to the public today and features two Winslow Homer engravings on paper and several tintype and ambrotype photographs of Union and Confederate soldiers. The installation remains on view until Sunday, June 12. In addition, this October the David B. Warren Symposium, presented by Bayou Bend and held every two years at the MFAH Brown Auditorium Theater and Bayou Bend, will focus on the Civil War and American material culture.

“It seemed only fitting that the American program at the MFAH recognize the four-year commemoration of the Civil War that will unfold between 2011 and 2015,” commented Emily Ballew Neff, curator of American painting and sculpture at the MFAH. “Though modest in scale, the annual lecture and installation in the galleries provide distinct moments for the museum‟s visitors to learn and think about the conflict and its legacy.”

On Thursday, March 17, at 6:30 pm, Duke University professor emeritus Dr. Peter H. Wood will discuss Winslow Homer‟s depiction of an enslaved black woman, titled Near Andersonville (1865-1866), which disappeared for a century after its completion. His lecture, Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War, will tell the story of the discovery in 1987 of the painting‟s original title, Near Andersonville; will examine its implications; and will reveal how Homer asserted his sympathy for black American life through his work. The lecture is free and open to the public and is supported by the MFAH African American Art Advisory Association (Five-A), the MFAH American Art and Wine patron group, and the MFAH department of American painting and sculpture.

The installation, War Memories: Images of the Civil War, is on view now. Few 19th-century artists took on the wrenching subject of the American Civil War (1861-1865); the two engravings by Winslow Homer (1836-1910) offer a rare chance to see an artist‟s insight into the conflict. Homer, widely considered one of the greatest 19th-century American artists, was an embedded reporter in the Union army for Harper’s Weekly. A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac, published in Harper’s Weekly on December 21, 1861, was based on his front-line experiences of the war in Virginia. The engraving shows northern soldiers relaxing around a campfire, watching a possible contraband (a slave who escaped to Union lines during the war) dance to the music of a fiddle played by an aged black man. The War for the Union, 1862—A Bayonet Charge depicts Rebel troops succumbing to Union soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, printed in Harper’s Weekly on July 12, 1862. Both works are from the MFAH Mavis P. and Mary Wilson Kelsey Collection of Winslow Homer Graphics.

Displayed in a case alongside the two Homers are pocket-size tintypes and ambrotypes that were intended as keepsakes for soldiers‟ loved ones: an amputee wearing a four button coat, a drummer boy, soldiers with their bayonets, and a portrait of a sergeant and his wife holding hands. Many of the men are depicted with objects – medals, the American flag, and an ID tag that was the precursor to the „dog tag‟ – the latter of which will be displayed with the photographs. All of the objects are on loan from The John L. Nau, III Civil War Collection located in Houston.

The MFAH will continue to recognize the Civil War sesquicentennial this fall, with the Third Biennial David B. Warren Symposium on American Material Culture and the Texas Experience presented by Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, the MFAH house museum for American decorative arts and paintings (6003 Memorial Drive). The symposium will take place October 28-30, 2011, and will focus on the Civil War as an agent of change in the mid-19th-century material culture of Texas, the Lower South, and Southwest.

The keynote speaker will be Jason T. Busch, Curatorial Chair for Collections and the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. He will be joined by symposium speakers John Michael Vlach, Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at The George Washington University and Director of the university's Folklife Program; Dana Byrd, doctoral candidate at Yale University and graduate of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture; Katie Knowles, doctoral candidate at Rice University, researcher at Winterthur Museum and Gardens, and former Jameson Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and William Hosley, consultant for cultural resource development, planning, and programs, and former curator at the Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, Connecticut) and former director of the New Haven Museum. Symposium admission is $35 for the public and $30 for museum members.