Snap the Whip

Snap the Whip
Artist Winslow Homer
Year 1872
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Private Collection
Dimensions 12 × 20 in
30.5 × 50.8 cm
Famous Paintings by Winslow Homer
Snap the Whip
The Gulf Stream
Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)
Right and Left
The Fox Hunt
Eight Bells
The Life Line
The Herring Net
The Blue Boat
Complete Works

The great American painter Winslow Homer is probably best known for his seascapes and scenes of the American northeast coastal regions. With Snap the Whip, Homer captures an idyllic scene of boys playing outside a rural one-room school house.

The boys are playing “snap the whip,” a game in which they line up to hold hands as they attempt to fling away the boy on the end of the human chain.

Capturing the Innocence of a Reborn America

This is an oil-on-canvas completed in 1872. Homer was among many artists of this period who attempted to capture the innocence and promise of a post-Civil War America.

It’s a bright and cheerful painting with a tiny school house painted vibrant red in the background. In the foreground is a vast grassy expanse of green strewn with wildflowers. The sky is blue and graced with fluffy white clouds. Eight boys, barefoot and dressed in rustic clothing, joyfully rough-house and wrestle as they form up a chain and send the boy on the end flying to the ground.


Some say the painting symbolizes a nation re-joined after the bitter years of war, now together with a joyous energy, and at the same time a challenge that requires strength and courage.

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