Defiance: Inviting a Shot Before Petersburg, 1864

  • Winslow Homer, American, 1836-1910

Oil on panel

  • Unframed: 12 × 18 inches (30.5 × 45.7 cm)
  • 19 3/4 × 25 3/4 × 2 3/4 inches (50.2 × 65.4 × 7 cm)

Founders Society Purchase with funds from Dexter M. Ferry, Jr.


On View

  • American, Level 2, West


American Art before 1950

Winslow Homer served as a war correspondent for Harper’s Weekly magazine during the Civil War. By the summer of 1864, the southern cause was lost but the Army of Northern Virginia fought on, defending the Confederate capital at Richmond. At Petersburg, which guarded the approach to Richmond from the south, the siege lasted nine months through the winter of 1864–65. This sets the scene for Homer’s young Confederate soldier to taunt the opposing force. Bored with trench warfare, he stands defiantly and challenges the Union sharpshooters to fire at him. Homer went to the Petersburg front on two occasions, possibly visiting the Confederate defenses after their retreat to help imagine this scene.

Signed and dated, lower left: Homer 1864

Inscribed, on verso (formerly): Inviting a Shot before Petersburg, Va., 1864. W Homer.

1904, Frederick S. Gibbs (New York, New York, USA). 1919, Thomas R. Ball (New York, New York, USA). 1927, Knoedler (New York, New York, USA). 1927, Woolworth Baldwin Collection, American Art Association. 1929, Edward Ward McMahon (New York, New York, USA). 1931, Pascal M. Gatterdam (New York, New York, USA). 1931, Macbeth Gallery (New York, New York, USA). 1950, Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York, USA). 1951, Knoedler (New York, New York, USA)

1951-present, purchased by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

“General City Intelligence—The Barker Art Gallery.” The New York Evening Post (January 28, 1880): pp. 8. The Private Collection of Frederick S. Gibbs, 421 22nd St, New York. New York, 1899, p. 51, no. 36. Brush and Pencil 8 (July 1901): p. 218. Downes, W.H. The Life and Works of Winslow Homer. 1911, p. 48. American Genre Paintings. Exh. cat., Carnegie Institute. Pittsburgh, 1936, no. 44. Winslow Homer Centenary. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum. New York, 1936, no. 1. Winslow Homer Exhibition. Exh. cat., Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. Columbus, 1937, no. 1. Watson, F. Winslow Homer. New York, 1942, p. 56. American Battle Painting 1776-1918. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1944 (ill.). Richardson, E.P. American Romantic Painting. Detroit, 1944 (pl. 210). Goodrich, L. Winslow Homer. New York, 1944, pp. 17, 230. World of the Romantic Artist. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1944, no. 25. Bulletin of the DIA 31, 1 (1951-1952): pp. 6-8 (ill.). Winslow Homer. Exh. cat., National Gallery. Washington, D.C., 1958, no. 3. The Civil War: The Artists’ Record. Exh. cat., Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1961, p. 82, no. 61. Yankee Painter: A Retrospective Exhibition of Oils, Watercolors and Graphics by Winslow Homer. Exh. cat., University of Arizona Art Gallery. Tuscon, 1963, p. 82, no. 43. The Life History of the United States, Vol.6. Chicago, 1963, p. 23. Wilmerding, J. Winslow Homer. New York, 1972, p. 22 (pl. 1). Grossman, J. Echo of a Distant Drum. New York, 1974, pp. 176-177 (pl. 185). Heritage and Horizon. Exh. cat., Albright-Knox Gallery. Buffalo, 1976, (fig. 20). Cinco Siglos de Obras Maestras. Exh. cat., Museo de Jade. San Jose, Costa Rica, 1978, no. 6 (ill.). Tarter, Brent. “’Gallantry in Action’ Medal of Honor Winners from Virginia, 1862-1865.” Virginia Cavalcade 37, 1: pp. 28-37. The Civil War and American Art. Exh. cat., Smithsonian Museum of American Art. New York, 2012, p. 161 (fig. 55). Herdrich, Stephanie L. and Sylvia Yount. Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents. Exh. cat., The MET. New Haven and London, 2022, p. 29 (ill.).

Winslow Homer, Defiance: Inviting a Shot Before Petersburg, 1864, oil on panel. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase with funds from Dexter M. Ferry, Jr., 51.66.