Today is the birthday of American artist Winslow Homer, born this day in 1836.  Among other things, Homer worked as an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War, hanging about with the Army of the Potomac.  He later developed what he saw and recorded into a number of paintings, including Prisoners From The Front above.  They are well worth a look if you have the opportunity.

I bring this up because B.B. and I were discussing the movie Gettysburg in comments to my recent post on the shortcomings of the effort to transpose Percy Jackson and the Olympians from print to celluloid.  Contrary to my usual jaded view of movies made from books, I happen to think that Gettysburg was a reasonably decent adaptation of Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels.  However, as I mentioned to B.B., one of my gripes with the movie was its penchant for pinching images from Homer’s work (and others’ as well).  Prisoners From The Front is perhaps the best example of this.  The movie set up one scene based exactly on the position of the characters in Homer’s painting, as I’m sure many of you will quickly recognize.  Now, you may say that this actually is in tribute to Homer, but I don’t recall seeing anything in the credits about it.  Further, I’d be willing to bet that not one in a thousand viewers recognized the nod.  Some people call that sort of thing plagiarism.

By the way, as long as I’m at it, the Union officer depicted in this painting is not, of course, Lt. Tom Chamberlain of the 20th Maine, but instead is Brigadier General Francis Barlow (who was, in fact, at Gettysburg himself and has his own remarkable story).  The painting is said to depict his capture of a numer of Confederates at Petersburg in 1864.  Homer used the painting as a chance to do a case study on various types of Rebel – proud cavalier officer, apprehensive old man and clueless country bumpkin cannon-fodder.  One of my other minor gripes with Gettysburg was that it was the bumpkin who spoke with Tom Chamberlain, and not the officer.