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Winslow Homer: Survival and the Sea
June 24 - September 11, 2005
Over the course of his long career, Winslow Homer (1836-1910), who had trained as a lithographer, produced only six etchings. Four of these will be presented as a special exhibition of masterworks on the theme of heroism and the sea in conjunction with the exhibition, Two Hundred Years of American Drawings and Watercolors from the Hood Museum of Art.
Winslow Homer was one of America's greatest artists of the 19th century and the sea was Homer's favorite subject. After the Civil War he spent time in Gloucester, Massachusetts where he painted fishermen and their children playing in the harbor. In 1881-82 he lived on the northeast coast of England at Cullercoats near Tynemouth. It was a poor, hard-working community of fisher folk who made their living and sometimes lost their lives on the sea. Homer captured dramatic moments of search and rescue that he witnessed on the stormy north Atlantic. Saved, Perils of the Sea, and Eight Bells are powerful images of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Mending the Tears describes a scene of women repairing fishing nets for the next day of work. Like monumental goddesses, these fisherwomen take on an immortal beauty as they perform their work in silent concentration. These are some of the most profound and moving images that Winslow Homer created. Each of these works embodies his vision of the sea, great and terrible, and the people who lived heroic lives, seeing themselves only as hard working men and women.
On September 11, the museum will present a special lecture on Homer and Heroism by Dr. Robert Sheardy in Cook Auditorium at 3:00pm. This lecture commemorates the heroes of the New York World Trade Towers Disaster of September 11, 2002.
Wall text from the exhibition
Winslow Homer (18361910) was one of America's great artists of the 19th century and the sea was his greatest subject. After the Civil War he spent time in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he painted fishermen at work and their children playing in the harbor. In 1881-1882 he lived on the northeast coast of England at Cullercoats near Tynemouth. It was a poor, hard-working community of fisher folk who made their living and sometimes lost their lives on the sea. Homer captured dramatic moments of search and rescue that he witnessed on the stormy north Atlantic. To the end of his life Homer lived and worked on the coast of Maine at Prout's Neck, spending winters in the Caribbean, and continuing his artistic pursuit of the sea.
Beginning in 1886, when Homer was fifty years old, he produced a series of large etchings that number among the greatest of the nineteenth century. Their context was the Etching Revival that began in France and spread to England and the United States, claiming major contributions by J.W. Whistler and Mary Cassatt. Homer had begun his career at the age of eighteen as an apprentice lithographer. An accomplished graphic illustrator during the Civil War era, Homer is best known for his wood engravings created for Harper's Weekly. However, the eight large etchings that he created from 1886-89 are exceptional works that he regarded as equal to his paintings in quality and significance.
Homer based his etchings on sea pictures that he had created several years earlier between 1883 and 1886. The etchings are not literal copies of their sources; they subtly revise and simplify the original designs to dramatic effect. The four prints exhibited here Eight Bells, Saved, Mending the Tears, and Perils of the Sea, along with Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake, are the acknowledged masterpieces of the eight large etchings. During his lifetime, Homer was unable to sell his etchings, but in the 20th century they were so highly regarded that new editions were printed. These four etchings are lifetime impressions signed by Homer and printed by the famous New York etcher George W.H. Ritchie. These are some of the most profound and moving images that Winslow Homer created.
On September 11, the museum will present a special lecture on Homer and Heroism by Dr. Robert Sheardy in Cook Auditorium at 3:00pm. This lecture commemorates the heroes of the New York World Trade Towers Disaster of September 11, 2001.
Label text from the exhibition
Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy these earlier articles and essays:
and these videos:
Winslow Homer: An American Original is a 49 minute 1999 HBO Artists' Specials series program directed by Graeme Lynch and produced by Devine Entertainment. The artist Winslow Homer has become famous for his illustrations of battle scenes during the Civil War, but he feels disenchanted with what he has experienced and withdraws to a quiet farm. There he meets a pair of teenagers whose lives have been shaken by the war. Together, Homer and the kids learn from each other and move forward with life.
Winslow Homer: The Nature of the Artist is a 29 minute 1986 video directed by Steve York from the National Gallery of Art Series. The art of Winslow Homer is examined in this profile of the American artist, from his early illustrations of the Civil War and his picturesque scenes of the country and shore, to the powerful images of nature that characterize his mature and late work. Commentary by the American art historian John Wilmerding provides a guide to Homer's artistic progress and to his achievements, particularly his transformation of the watercolor medium from the purely descriptive into a highly expressive vehicle.
and these resources on the Web for Winslow Homer:
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