Winslow Homer

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Homer, Winslow,

1836–1910, American landscape, marine, and genre painter. Homer was born in Boston, where he later worked as a lithographer and illustrator. In 1861 he was sent to the Civil War battlefront as correspondent for Harper's Weekly, and his magazine drawings won international acclaim. Homer also created many affecting paintings depicting life at the Union front and elsewhere during the Civil War. Many of his studies of everyday life, such as Snap the Whip (1872, Metropolitan Mus.), date from the postwar period, during which he was a popular magazine illustrator. In 1876, Homer abandoned illustration to devote himself to painting. He found his inspiration in the American scene and, eventually, in the sea, which he painted at Prouts Neck, Maine, in the summer and in Key West, Fla., or the Bahamas in the winter. After 1884 he lived the life of a recluse, leaving his home in Manhattan, and making Prouts Neck his base.

Although Homer excelled above all as a watercolorist, his oils and watercolors alike are characterized by directness, realism, objectivity, and splendid color. His powerful and dramatic interpretations of the sea in watercolor have never been surpassed and hold a unique place in American art. They are in leading museums throughout the United States. Characteristic watercolors are Breaking Storm and Maine Coast (both: Art Inst. of Chicago) and The Hurricane (Metropolitan Mus.). Characteristic oils include The Gulf Stream (1899) and Moonlight—Wood's Island Light (both: Metropolitan Mus.) and Eight Bells (1886; Addison Gall., Andover, Mass.). Homer's Prouts Neck studio was purchased (2006) by the Portland Museum of Art, restored, and opened to the public in 2012.


See biographies by P. C. Beam (1966), J. Wilmerding (1972), and M. Judge (1986); studies by L. Goodrich (1968 and 1972) and P. H. Wood (2011); B. Gelman, ed., The Wood Engravings of Winslow Homer (1969); studies of his watercolors by D. Hoopes (1969), P. C. Beam (1983), H. A. Cooper (1987), M. Unger (2001), and R. C. Griffin (2006).

Homer, Winslow


Born Feb. 24, 1836, in Boston; died Sept. 29, 1910, in Prouts Neck, Me. American painter and graphic artist.

Homer worked as a lithographer from 1854 and as a magazine illustrator from 1857 to 1874. He was a pictorial reporter during the Civil War (1861–65) and began painting in 1862. He visited France in 1866–67 and Britain in 1881–82. Homer developed his abilities as a painter on his own by studying the works of American and French realist painters. His painting Prisoners From the Front (1866, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), which combines documentary accuracy with brilliant psychological characterization of the soldiers of the two armies, is an early example of his work revealing his distinctive gifts as a realist painter. Later, Homer painted mainly pictures from the life of the common people of America: farmers, hunters, and seamen; many of his pictures are devoted to the life of the Negroes.

In portraying large figures against the background of American landscapes and through the use of rich colors, Homer emphasized the noble courage, simplicity, harmony with nature, and in-dustriousness of his heroes. He progressed from somewhat idyllic rural scenes (The Dinner Horn, 1873, Detroit Institute of Arts,) to the dramatic portrayal of man’s struggle with nature (Huntsman and Dogs, 1891, Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Gulf Stream, 1899, Metropolitan Museum of Art).


Goodrich, L. Winslow Homer. New York, 1959.
Gould, J. Winslow Homer: A Portrait. New York, 1962.

Homer, Winslow

(1836–1910) painter; born in Boston, Mass. Largely self-taught, he began his career as a lithographer and then became an illustrator for popular magazines. Harper's Weekly sent him periodically to cover the Civil War (1861–65), and the resulting drawings and paintings revealed his draftmanship, realism, and unsentimental approach to his subjects, as seen in Prisoners from the Front (1866). His early genre work, such as Snap the Whip (1872), ensured his popularity, and he spent more time on his own work. By 1875 he was using water color, his primary medium, as a method of quickly capturing a dramatic moment in nature. He traveled often, producing many fine works as a result of his journeys to such places as Bermuda, Florida, and Petersburg, Virginia. His series of paintings of African-Americans, such as the well-known The Cotton Pickers (1876), and The Carnival (1877), exhibit his superb design capabilities and a striking use of paint. After traveling to England (1881–82), he settled at Prouts Neck, Maine, in 1883 and the sea and the men and women who lived near the shore became the main focus of his art. He began a series of oils and water colors that built his reputation as a major artist. His seascapes, such as Northeaster (1895) and Early Morning after a Storm at Sea (1902), reveal the vitality and power of his genius.
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Interspersed is art by Winslow Homer, Seneca Ernie Smith, Andrew Wyeth, and Charles Burchfield; a reminiscence by Jimmy Carter, the American Chestnut Foundation's director; poems by Wendell Berry and Robert Frost; reflections by plant geneticist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug; and an excerpt from Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, which includes a chestnut breeder character.
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