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The Body Eclectic

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Yet at times through changeful season and scene, abrupt, alone, or in the crowded street,/

Comes before me the unknown soldier's grave, comes the inscription rude in Virginia's woods,/

Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade. — "A Grave," Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman is often described as the clear voice and conflicted soul of America. The celebrated poet opposed slavery but feared abolitionists. He once claimed to have authored a temperance novel while under the influence of strong drink. As a humanist, Whitman did away with the gods and heroes of epic poetry and sang songs to and of himself. And his words are the inspiration for "Bold, Cautious, True," an exhibit of 19th-century American art which opens at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens on Sunday, July 5th. "Bold, Cautious, True" uses Whitman's poetry to bind a diverse collection of Civil War-era paintings and prints depicting a sensual and chaotic world where there are no boundaries between the pragmatic and the ideal. The show places paintings by Frederic Edwin Church, who aimed for spirituality in his representational portraits of meteors and the Aurora Borealis, next to prints by Winslow Homer, the self-taught painter who abandoned his position as a commercial artist and lithographer. Eastman Johnson's shadowy painting A Ride for Liberty, which depicts a family of slaves escaping during the battle of Manassas, shares space with Burial of Latane, William D. Washington's tragic Confederate eulogy.

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