© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Pitching Quoits is Homer’s first large-scale painting of the Civil War. It depicts a moment of leisure in a Union encampment. The game of quoits was ordinarily played with heavy metal rings, but the soldiers here improvise with readily available horseshoes as the seated figure in the center keeps score. The red tasseled caps, blue filigreed jackets, and baggy trousers identify the soldiers as members of the 5th New York Volunteer infantry, known as Duryee’s Zouaves. The regiment derived its name and uniforms from the original Zouaves, Algerian mercenaries who gained fame fighting for the French in the Crimean War (1853–56).

Though the regiment lost three-fifths of its ranks in a single battle in 1862, Homer does not explicitly acknowledge the atrocities of the war. With their vacant stares and static postures, the soldiers underscore the boredom of life in camp and the exhaustion experienced in the long intervals between battles.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Winslow Homer, American (Boston, MA 1836 - 1910 Prouts Neck, ME)
Pitching Quoits
Other Titles
Former Title: The Quoit Players
Former Title: Zouaves Pitching Quoits
Former Title: Pitching Horsehoes
Work Type
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
68 x 136.5 cm (26 3/4 x 53 3/4 in.)
frame: 99.1 x 167.6 x 9.2 cm (39 x 66 x 3 5/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r.: WINSLOW HOMER NY / 1865
Winslow Homer, sold [through Miner and Somerville, New York, 1866, American Artists Sale]. Abijah Curtiss, Yonkers-on-Hudson, NY, circa 1870-73 [1], by descent; to Frederic H. Curtiss, Boston, MA, by 1911 [2], gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1940

[1] The date of acquisition of this painting by Abijah Curtiss (1831-1888) was variously stated by his son, Frederic H. Curtiss (1869-1967). In correspondence relating to his gift, Frederic H. Curtiss first stated that the painting had been in his family "since sometime before 1870, having been bought by my father" (November 13, 1940). He later wrote that it "was purchased before 1873" (January 3, 1944).

[2] Abijah Curtiss did not bequeath "Pitching Quoits" directly to his son Frederic H. Curtiss in his will (probated August 7, 1888). Therefore, it must have descended in the family. In 1911, William Howe Downes listed Frederic H. Curtiss as the owner of "Pitching Quoits."
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic Haines Curtiss
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Exhibition History

Annual Exhibition, 1865, National Academy of Design, New York, 04/27/1865 - 07/01/1865

Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Winslow Homer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 02/08/1911 - 03/08/1911

Sport in American Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 01/01/1944 - 12/31/1944

A Loan Exhibition of Works by Winslow Homer for the Benefit of the New York Botanical Gardens, Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 02/19/1947 - 03/22/1947

American Processional: 1492-1900, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 01/01/1950 - 12/31/1950

Young America: Artists Under Forty, Brandeis University, Waltham, 06/06/1954 - 06/20/1954

Sport in Art, Time-Life Building, New York, 10/31/1955 - 11/04/1955; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 11/15/1955 - 12/15/1955; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 01/05/1956 - 01/30/1956; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, 02/14/1956 - 03/10/1956; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, 03/25/1956 - 04/20/1956; Denver Art Museum, Denver, 05/05/1956 - 05/30/1956; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 06/15/1956 - 07/10/1956; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 07/28/1956 - 09/09/1956; Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, 10/08/1956 - 10/28/1956

American Paintings from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Symphony Hall, Boston, 02/21/1958 - 03/15/1958

Winslow Homer: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 11/23/1958 - 01/04/1959; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 01/29/1959 - 03/08/1959; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 03/26/1959 - 05/03/1959

The Civil War, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 11/04/1961 - 12/17/1961; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 01/11/1962 - 02/25/1962

Highlights from the Collection of the Fogg Art Museum and Harvard Alumni of St. Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 01/30/1964 - 03/01/1964

Man: The Glory, Jest, and Riddle, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 11/09/1964 - 01/03/1965

The Painter and the New World, Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Montreal, 06/08/1967 - 07/30/1967

American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972

Winslow Homer, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 04/03/1973 - 06/24/1973; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 07/03/1973 - 08/15/1973; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 09/08/1973 - 10/21/1973

Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977

Winslow Homer: Paintings of the Civil War, Museum of Fine Arts, Portland, Portland, 10/09/1988 - 12/18/1988; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, 01/07/1989 - 03/12/1989

American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994

Winslow Homer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 02/21/1996 - 05/26/1996

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/05/2009 - 01/24/2010

Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2120 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 07/12/2018

Winslow Homer: Eyewitness, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/31/2019 - 01/05/2020

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

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Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu