Skip to main content

Dartmouth Home | Search | Index Dartmouth home page

Search this Site

 FaceBook Icon Twitter Icon Instagram Icon TouTube Icon
Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

Subscribe: RSS

George Cochran Lambdin, American, 1830-1896

In the Beech Wood (In the Woods)
Oil on canvas
Purchased through the Julia L. Whittier Fund and the Mrs. Harvey P. Hood W'18 Fund; P.988.4


Like many genre painters of his time, George Cochran Lambdin referred to the Civil War in his art by focusing on soldiers at rest or at home with their families rather than in combat. His first work in this vein was The Consecration (1861, Indianapolis Museum of Art), in which a soldier’s leave-taking from family takes on a ritualistic importance. Completed in 1864, In the Beech Wood builds on this theme in its suggestion of the impending separation of a young, presumably married, couple (she wears a ring). Here the woman and her beloved, possibly a recruit, meet in a forest, where he carves their initials into a beech tree—a smooth-barked species long favored for this practice. The cathedral-like woodland setting, with its radiant clearing beyond, appears to sanctify this act of devotion. Their contrasting postures—the man erect as he forcibly carves the initials and the woman seated and watching as the writing unfolds— suggest gender expectations of the period. His commanding stance evokes his readiness for the front, while her proximity to the ground and alignment with the glowing light beyond imply her association with the restorative natural setting. Lambdin’s better-known contemporary, Winslow Homer, painted a related work, The Initials, the same year. Although it is not certain which came first, Homer’s painting seems to conclude the narrative suggested in Lambdin’s composition. In Homer’s version, a young woman, alone in the woods, mournfully retraces the initials carved in a tree by her departed lover.

Last Updated: 4/29/09