Standing in the brilliant sunlight of midday, a young woman blows a metal horn to summon the farmhands in the nearby field to their noontime meal. Her feet rest at the end of a well-trod path, suggesting the repetitive nature of this task. A strong gust of wind blows across the foreground from the right, evidenced by Winslow Homer’s skillful depiction of the young woman’s raised, twisting skirt and floating dress strings. Only a narrow corner of the wooden structure to her left can be seen, revealing weathered wooden siding and the edge of a window frame. Thin vines studded with leaves and thorns climb the wall. Below, two potted plants and an overturned metal milk jug form a small still life.
Downhill from the wind-swept figure, a cluster of chickens and a cow are visible in the verdant middle ground. Further in the distance this grassy stretch turns golden brown, suggesting a field of harvested hay. On the far right edge of the field sits a domed haystack. A handful of men in bright shirts are at work nearby, one of whom maneuvers what appears to be a horse-drawn hay mower.
The Dinner Horn is the first in a series of works by Homer from the early 1870s that feature the trumpeting figure of a young woman. It is also an early example of the artist’s exploration of farming subjects. The work was first exhibited in 1871 under the title Blowing the Horn at Seaside.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I, pages 301-305, which is available as a free PDF at https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/american-paintings-19th-century-part-1.pdf