by Jeff Dugan, Art to Heart Ministries
This is Boys in a Pasture, painted by Winslow Homer, one of America’s most beloved artists. There’s really very little I can tell you that will improve your understanding of this picture. I could, perhaps, point out the triangular shape formed by the boys, which gives an architectural stability to the composition that lends a sense of permanence to the scene. There’s no threat of rain, no impending dinner bell to ruin the enjoyment of the moment.
Or, I could point out that Homer paints from a vantage point close to the ground, which raises the horizon and gives the pasture an enhanced sense of boundlessness and freedom. The triangle formed by the boys that echoes the shape of the straw hat and points in the direction of the boys’ gaze, which is to a horizon so distant that it lies beyond the edge of the world defined by the frame.
I think we can perceive significance to this image that is even more profound, even if it is one that Homer did not intend.
I’ll get to that significance in a moment, but primarily, I think that even without any knowledge of Homer’s techniques or mindset, we all feel the great abundance of casual, easy freedom — the peace — the perfect contentment — that he has captured here. We all remember the time when a day stretched as far as you could see, and when our only responsibility was to rejoice in our own unencumbered existence. We all remember this, and we all yearn for that in a corner of our hearts.
I believe the young soul that persists in each of us is a hint that we are not truly made for this world of constant decay. Shouldn’t our soul wither along with our body? It should – unless it is meant for an existence where there is no decay. We can look at Boys in a Pasture and see there some hope that we are justified by our faith in Christ and His promise that He has prepared a place for us beyond the grave.
The Bible tells us that heaven is wonderful beyond our capacity to imagine it. Based on this, C. S. Lewis suggested that nothing in heaven will remind us of our earthly lives, since even our most glorious moments here would be too painful to bear. I think that’s probably right, but that image is indeed beyond my ability to imagine.
Until I experience it myself, though, images like the one in Homer’s painting can help. It need not be just a picture of a couple of boys. It can speak to us of lost youth, but for Christians it can also remind us of a youth that will one day be recovered. The yearning the image produces within us can be the voice of a soul reminding us of its true home.
“And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4, NASB)
You can read more devotions from Jeff Dugan at his Website:
Boys in a Pasture
Winslow Homer (1874) • 15.9″ x 22.9″ • Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Boys in a Pasture
A number of products with Boys in a Pasture are available from Amazon, posters, prints, etc. Click on the image at left or the blue text above, to be taken directly to that page at Amazon.com.