Winslow Homer’s Defiance: Inviting a Shot Before Petersburg is an oil on panel painting in the American Realist style, measuring 12 × 18 inches (30.5 × 45.7 cm). Homer served as a war correspondent for Harper’s Weekly magazine during the Civil War and observed soldiers trained to use sharpshooting weapons while encamped with the Union Army at the Virginia front. The painting draws heavily on his earlier sketch titled Studies of a Battlefield with Tree Stumps and Blasted Tree Trunks, Petersburg, Virginia,1864.
Arguably one of Homer’s most provocative Civil War paintings, Defiance primarily focuses on the Confederate side. The painting portrays a Confederate sharpshooter standing behind a makeshift breastwork made of logs and branches. He wears civilian clothing and leans forward in defiance as he gestures towards the Union lines while holding out his hat on top of his rifle barrel – seemingly inviting return fire from Union soldiers hidden in their trenches.
Defiance is located at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan. Although small in size, it highlights Homer’s talent for capturing human emotion and psychological complexity amid tumultuous times through realistic imagery. It also provides insight into how both sides viewed each other during one of America’s most difficult periods- showcasing divisiveness yet highlighting bravery amidst conflict.