Winslow Homer's Carmella Snaps the Whipclick on image to enlarge
Content and Criticism
Children and dog embodied innocence and the promise of America's future and were depicted by many artists and writers during the 1870s. Here, Homer reminisces about rural simplicity and reflects on the challenges of the complex post–Civil War world. Released from the confines of a one-room schoolhouse, exuberant boys and a little brown dog engage in a spirited game.
The dog's play bow encapsulates the joy and light heartedness of the game. The boys' bare feet signal childhood's freedom, but their suspenders are associated with manhood's responsibilities. Their game, which requires teamwork, strength, and calculation, may allude to the reunited nation. Observed from right to left, Homer's boys hang on to one another, strain to stay connected, run in perfect harmony after the little brown dog, and fall away, enacting all the possible scenarios for men after the Civil War. As the population shifted to cities and the little red schoolhouse faded from memory, this image would have evoked nostalgia for the nation's agrarian past.
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Winslow Homer's Snap the Whip