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An American Artist:Winslow Homer

Updated on November 29, 2014
Deutsch: Nach dem Tornado.licensed under Gnu free documentation. Wqatercolor
Deutsch: Nach dem Tornado.licensed under Gnu free documentation. Wqatercolor | Source

Yankee, self-reliant, strong willed, practical and terse. So goes the liner notes in Homer by Mary A. Judge, a book on Homer and his art. Homer was born in Boston and lived between 1836 and 1910. He was a self-taught artist who began his career as a graphic artist before the American Civil War. He became a correspondent during the war and left some very good pictures of soldiers. He went on to become noted for pictures of Americana and life scenes. His work in his later period made him the foremost painter in the United States.

It was on his second trip to Europe that he went to a remote fishing village on the North Sea. That is where his mature style developed. Hw painted the local fishermen in watercolors. He portrayed them dealing with the sea and nature on a daily basis and represented it as a struggle.

When he went back to America he found a similar and remote place at Prouts Neck on the coast of Maine. He created images with directness and a strong sense of design. He created images that were at once mythical, factual and “formally” simple according to Ms Judge.

The Bathers

The Bathers by Winslow Homer. A wood engraving used by Harpers Weekly.
The Bathers by Winslow Homer. A wood engraving used by Harpers Weekly. | Source

It was just before the Civil War that he started out painting ordinary life. Ms Judge says he did so “with a thickly applied brush that affirmed the materiality of forms and substance.”

Along with his French contemporaries he had an interest in Oriental design principles such as a speck of red-common in Japanese prints. As an illustrator his work showed a strong sense of design, which he retained, in later work. He also displayed a bit of a storytelling element which Ms Judge says became “more mythic” than narrative. His view of nature was more stark than sentimental which was somewhat a break from contemporary attitudes.

In oils he expressed power and simplicity. In watercolors he was more free and had vibrant, unlikely colors “side by side.” It was his favorite medium. Although he was a man or the 19th century, he ignored the material progress and concentrated on rustic life such as hunting, fishing and outdoor work.

His early work showed Victorian manners, propriety and strain between the sexes. His mature work was modern verging on abstraction with an element of mystery.

I was introduced to his work in a college Art History class and found something I liked even though I only had a vague understanding of the technicalities of art. His “Snap-the-Whip” shows schoolboys playing the game in which we used to call crack the whip. It has a sense of dynamic

power in it as well as portraying life. It was a wood engraving for Harper’s Weekly.

I was not too aware of his Civil War work until I looked through Ms Judge’s book, but I like his portrayal of soldiers. To me it has a sense of realism although more expert people could disagree with me.

Many of his pictures portray men and women at beaches, playing games, skating and dancing which I cannot identify with but show something of an upper class Victorian lifestyle.

It is his pictures of fisherman and nature, which are the most dynamic and draw the viewer in. The legacy of this artist seems to fit much of what he seemed to be, that is, a New England Yankee who was strong willed, self reliant and a very American artist.

Source: Homer by Mary A. Judge 1986 IBSN 0517-55725-8, Crown Publishers, Inc.


War and other perils

Bayonet Charge. This is a very real battle scene. in Harpers weekly
Bayonet Charge. This is a very real battle scene. in Harpers weekly | Source
Perils of the sea 1881. watercolor
Perils of the sea 1881. watercolor | Source

Winslow Homer an American Original

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    • profile image

      Amylib1 

      7 years ago

      Thank you so much for your prompt reply. Here is a link to the painting. If it doesn't connect,it is on pg. 2 and is in the 4th row down, 4th across. I appreciate the advice to talk with a research librarian...I will do that.

      http://www.winslow-homer.com/home-2-24-1-0.html

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Sorry, but I am not familiar with that painting. I would suggest you talk to a research librarian at your local library.

    • profile image

      Amylib1 

      7 years ago

      Does anyone have any information on a different "The Bathers" by Winslow Homer? It is two women as well, but in thigh-deep water and it appears that they are swinging each other by the arms, almost like "ring around the rosie". I need this for a school assignment and am having a hard time locating date and medium. Thank you!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I appreciate your comments about my hub. I looked at your hub on American artists and it is very good. Winslow Homer has always appealed to me.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      I featured one of Winslow Homer's paintings on my Hub "American Art."

      https://hubpages.com/art/American-Art...

      I am glad to see you have given him his due here with an excellent writeup and several of his outstanding works. Thank you for this pleasure. His art is magnificent.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for adding these technical comments about Hommer's work. I have always liked his paintings but I don't have the technical art background..

    • prasadjain profile image

      Dr.S.P.PADMA PRASAD 

      7 years ago from Tumkur

      A vote-up hub. He was really a gifted artist.Thin lines, proper and effective shading, use of mild colors,etc have added to the effect of each art work by this artist.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 

      7 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      ya. sounds about right

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      PDXKareokeguy, I appreciate your comment. For me there is an intuitive factor in art. In the case of this artist his pictures just took my attention more than many others.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 

      7 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      good hub! I've seen many of these paintings before but never knew anything about the man who created them. Thanks for sharing! Up and interesting!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks Dexter. There seems to me to be a depth in his work that creates an emotional response in addition to just showing a scene. I guess that is the way art is supposed to be.Thanks for commenting.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Hi Dahoglund! I really enjoyed reading and learning about Winslow Homer. His artistry is exceptional! Thanks.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      smcopywrite,Thanks for reading my hub and commenting.

    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 

      7 years ago from all over the web

      i love the work and the pics are extremely beautiful and relaxing. thanks for the wonderful hub and the share..voted up

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Satomco, Thank you for the comment.Winslow Homer does so well to document the late 19th Century.

    • satomko profile image

      Seth Tomko 

      7 years ago from Macon, GA

      You always do such an amazing job with these artist hubs. Keep up the good work.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy,

      Winslow Homer and Frank Lloyd Wright stand out in my mind from the American Art History course I had, although there were others.As the old saying goes " don't know much about art but I know what I like" sort of applies.In those day there were people who were art students who would claim there was no American art.It must be great to have someone like your aunt to show you around the exhibits.Thanks for commenting.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I love seeing the work of the artist Winslow Homer...especially his watercolors. I remember when my artistic aunt who was a docent at the Milwaukee Art Center visited us in Houston one year, there was a Winslow Homer exhibit at our Houston Fine Arts Museum. Loved going through the show with her as a guide and listening to her commentary as to what we were viewing. Of course this applied to other artistic works as well.

      Great hub! All the up votes excepting funny.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you moonlake.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      7 years ago from America

      Good hub enjoyed reading about Winslow Homer.

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