Timed to coincide with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and Emancipation, VMFA is reprising the exhibition Bold, Cautious, True: Walt Whitman and American Art of the Civil War Era, originally organized by the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis.

The Richmond reworking of this thought-provoking exhibition, which takes its title from Whitman’s poem “As Toilsome I Wander’d Virginia’s Wood,” showcases one of VMFA’s seminal works—Eastman Johnson’s A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves, March 2, 1862—in addition to 29 paintings, sculpture, and rare books from noted public and private collections across the country.

While preserving the central focus of the original exhibition—the layered meanings and moods of 1860s American art as viewed against the poetry of Walt Whitman, one of America’s chief “scribes” of the war—VMFA’s reprise expands the number of featured artists.

By juxtaposing the writings of Whitman with various landscapes and genre scenes by Conrad Wise Chapman, Frederic Church, Robert Duncanson, David Johnson, Winslow Homer, among others, the exhibition encourages a fresh understanding of America’s visual and verbal responses to the national crisis. A fully-illustrated catalogue, published by the Dixon, accompanies the exhibition.

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