Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
Historic American Painting, Works on Paper, and Printmaking
Winslow Homer was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Cambridge, Mass. At age 19, Homer was apprenticed to Boston commercial lithographer, John H. Bufford. Soon after, in 1857, he began free-lancing as an illustrator for Harper's Weekly magazine. He moved to New York in 1859 and worked for Harper's while taking evening life-drawing classes at the National Academy of Design, and taking a few painting lessons from a genre and landscape painter. He was sent by Harper's to Washington, D. C. to cover the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, and, after the Civil War erupted, to record the activities of the Army of the Potomac. During the war, Homer traveled between New York, where he continued his drawing classes at the National Academy, and Virginia where he illustrated various campaigns for Harper's.
Homer made his artistic debut with two paintings at the National Academy annual exhibition in 1863, to considerable critical acclaim. In 1864, Homer was elected an Associate Academician, and in 1865, a full Academician. He sailed for France in 1866, spending a year in the artists' colony in Cernay-la-ville. His now famous paintings, Prisoners from the Front, and The Bright Side were exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle.
The 1870s was a significant decade in Homer's development. He made his first of many trips to the Adirondack Mountains in upper New York State in 1870; in 1871, he moved to the Tenth Street Studio Building, a center of artistic activity where other important American artists had their studios at that time, including Frederic E. Church, John La Farge, Sanford R. Gifford and John Ferguson Weir. In 1873, Homer summered at Gloucester, Massachusetts, and began his first serious watercolors, some of which were exhibited the following year at the annual exhibition of the American Society of Painters in Watercolor. In 1875, he first visited Prout's Neck, Maine (where he settled in 1883), and ended his career as a commercial illustrator. The following year, he first spent time at friend Lawson Valentine's Houghton's Farm in Mountainsville, New York, where he began a series of delightful watercolors of children and young people in the outdoors, enjoying various summertime pleasures.
Between 1881 and 1882, he spent nearly two years at Cullercoats, near Newcastle, England, and produced a striking series of watercolors and oils depicting the life of the sea-faring culture along that rugged coast. After his return to New York, he settled in Prout's Neck Maine, and began his annual wintertime trips to Florida, Cuba, Bermuda, and the Bahamas, a habit he continued until 1909. Between 1884 and 1887, he produced the series of oils which firmly established his reputation: The Life Line, The Herring Net, The Fog Warning, Lost in the Grand Banks, Breezing Up, Undertow, and Eight Bells. In 1889, Homer began regular trips to the Adirondacks, and in 1890, he produced his first seascapes.
Homer was a regular participant in annual exhibitions, showing his oils and watercolors in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. His paintings were often awarded gold medals. Homer exhibited fifteen paintings in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair. Beginning in 1900, museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, began to purchase his oils. His reputation as one of America's most significant artists has never waned. He was recognized early on as a realist who was consistently devoted to revealing truth. His subjects ranged from children at work and play, to men and women and the harsh realities they faced in their everyday lives, to the inner quiet of woods shattered by greedy huntsmen and woodsmen, to the glorious color of Caribbean light, to the sea restlessly and relentlessly pounding the rocky and inhospitable shores of Maine.
Selected Permanent Collections:
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Art Institute of Chicago
The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut