A Visit from the Old Mistress1876 by Winslow Homer

A Visit from the Old Mistress captures a tentative encounter in the postwar South.

The freed slaves are no longer obliged to greet their former mistress with welcoming gestures, and one remains seated as she would not have been allowed to do before the war. Winslow Homer composed the work from sketches he had made while traveling through Virginia; it conveys a silent tension between two communities seeking to understand their future. The formal equivalence between the standing figures suggests the balance that the nation hoped to find in the difficult years of Reconstruction.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
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