The Watercolors of Winslow Homer


Picture Editor: Arnold Skolnick

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was not only one of America's greatest painters in oil but also an unrivaled master of the watercolor medium. From charming scenes of a rural childhood to epic landscapes that chronicle the many moods of nature, Homer's watercolors remain unmatched in their ambition and expressive power. Homer, along with artists like John Singer Sargent and John La Farge, helped usher in the first great age of American watercolor painting, setting the stage for the brilliant creations of such twentieth-century masters as Maurice Prendergest, Georgia O'Keeffe, John Marin, and Edward Hopper.

The Watercolors of Winslow Homer examines the artist's spectacular achievement in the medium, beginning in 1873 with his earliest watercolors depicting the carefree life of children playing at the shore, and concluding with the sparkling images he painted in the first years of the twentieth century that capture the tropical lushness of Florida, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. Along the way, Homer's watercolors embraced the variety of American life, from the New England coast to the rustic farms of upstate New York and Virginia. Homer's brush pictured both the genteel world of fashionable young ladies and the Adirondacks forests where rugged lumbermen and hunters plied their trade. Homer's travels also took him to the English coast where he painted somber, monumental watercolors of the storm-swept sea, and late in life to the Caribbean where the warm sun inspired some of his most colorful and sensuous works. Above all, Homer was a confirmed outdoorsman, and the watercolors he painted in the forests and lakes of the Adirondacks and Quebec are among the most profound evocations of natural beauty ever created.

Homer's greatest contribution to watercolor was to expand the possibilities of the medium, investing fragile works on paper with a visual and moral weight. His watercolors not only depict the beauty of the wilderness but also document a fragile ecosystem under threat from human exploitation. Of the close to 700 watercolors that have survived, The Watercolors of Winslow Homer reproduces over 140 works, including both recognized masterpieces and little-known gems. Homer himself seemed to recognize his achievement, writing late in life to his brother Charles, "You will see, in the future I will live by my Watercolors."

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