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Terra Foundation & Newberry Present Chicago’s Only Major Sesquicentennial Civil War Exhibition

September 18, 2013

Chicago, IL—To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the US Civil War, the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Newberry have co-organized Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North, which runs Sept. 24–Mar. 24, 2014, at The Newberry, 60 W. Walton St.

Focusing on the enormous, and costly, effect the war had on civilians, Home Front includes paintings by Winslow Homer, Frederic Edwin 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 explores the domestic side of life during the Civil War, an aspect of the era which generally receives less attention than the battlefields but nevertheless is crucial to a richer understanding of this important period in United States history,” said Terra Foundation for American Art President and CEO Elizabeth Glassman. “Projects such as this are crucial to our mission of fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States.”

Chicago’s only major exhibition during the Civil War sesquicentennial, Home Front, comprehensively examines the culture of the Northern home front through visual materials that illustrate the war’s influence on:

  • Households 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.”

“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, and its accompanying book, unique among others that examine the war and its impact.”

The other three book authors are: Sarah Burns, professor of art history emeritus, 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.

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

A Veterans’ Day Salute to Military Spouses
The Newberry and the Terra Foundation welcome Chicago-area families who constitute today’s “Home Front.” The event includes brunch, a brief program, live Civil War-era music, and curator-guided tours of the exhibition.
Date TBD

“Conversations at the Newberry”
Michael Burlingame and Doug Wilson
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Burlingame and Wilson will discuss the language and rhetoric of President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Thursday, November 21

Art History Lecture
John Davis
“Race and Battlefield: Seeing and Not Seeing the Civil War”
Thursday, January 16, 6 pm

Music of the Civil War
Performance of period music from exhibition with expert commentary
Saturday, March 1

Additional programming includes monthly curator gallery talks and a series of related adult seminars. With the exception of the Veterans’ Day event, all programs are free and open to the public, and require no advance registration.

The Newberry

Serving the public as an independent research library since 1887, The Newberry hosts a collection focusing on Western Europe and the Americas and offers a wide array of programs. Its more than 1.5 million books, 5 million pages of manuscript, and 500,000 historic maps range from illuminated medieval works and rare cartographic treasures to rich genealogical resources and the papers of Midwest authors and companies.  Each year more than 100,000 people visit the Newberry to conduct research, explore their families’ histories, take undergraduate or continuing education seminars, participate in teacher professional development programs, view exhibitions, listen to lectures, or attend other events.

Terra Foundation for American Art

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.