In the painting, the country boys idealise brotherhood. The older one is seen standing in a protective posture between his brother and the alert bull. These two boys are seen walking barefoot, a symbol of their love for nature and innocence. They are standing close together against the lush hills, bringing out a redemptive symbol of a united future for the country after the war.
Further Paintings by Winslow Homer
Homer expressed his love for the post-war subject matter in most of his paintings. One of them is the 1876 oil piece, A visit from the Old Mistress. A group of freed slaves is revealed, with an encounter to their former mistress. This painting symbolised the union that the nation longed for despite the difficulties experienced over the years. It was completed using sketches that Homer had gathered from his Virginia tour. The veteran in a New Field is an 1865 piece that was completed soon after the war ended. It shows a soldier gleaning wheat in his farm using a scythe tool that was then associated with the Grim Reaper to symbolise death. In this painting, the use of the tool is a symbol of new beginnings.
In 1886, Homer painted Prisoners from the Front, which happened a year after the end of the war. It reveals the surrender of the prisoners to Union General Francis Channing Barlow. In the background is Petersburg battlefield. Breezing up, painted in 1876, was a popular painting. It was celebrated for its energy and freshness. Critics viewed it as a symbol of optimism for the future expectations in the year of America’s centenary celebration. Some critics, however, interpreted the gaze of the American boy towards the horizon as a sign of hearty cheer amidst forthcoming bad luck.
Homer’s work was mainly focused on the idyllic rural life. One of his most celebrated work is Snap the Whip, where young girls and boys are seen playing a game outdoors holding hands. Boys in a Pasture shows two young boys lying in an open field, while The Country School reveals a schoolhouse which later became an extremely nostalgic image. The Morning Bell depicts factory workers in a rural setting headed to work while Haymaking reveals a teenager heaping hay using a pitchfork. Although Homer’s themes were popular in the 19th century, they still have that simplistic feel that appeals to the 21st century.