Sunday, 3 May 2009


“The moon is a silver pin-head vast, That holds the heaven's tent-hangings fast.” - William R. Alger

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was an American artist or should I say, one of America’s greatest artists. His work has become very popular with collectors and museum visitors, having an instant appeal with most people who first look at it. Although a landscape painter and printmaker, he is best known for his characteristic seascapes and marine subjects.
Homer was largely self-taught and began his career working as a commercial illustrator. He subsequently took up oil painting and produced major studio works characterised by the weight and density he exploited from the medium. He also worked extensively in watercolor, creating a fluid and prolific oeuvre, primarily chronicling his working vacations.

A stay in England from 1881 to 1882, during which Homer lived in a fishing village, led to a permanent change in his choice of subject matter. From then on he concentrated on large-scale scenes of nature, particularly scenes of the sea, of its fishermen, and of their families. Taking up solitary residence on the Maine coast at Prout's Neck, he produced such masterpieces of realism as “Eight Bells”. In such paintings, the drama of the sea scene is imbued with an epic, heroic quality that symbolises the dominant theme of his maturity: Human struggle against the forces of nature.

After 1884, Homer spent many of his winters in Florida, in the Bahamas, and in Cuba. His many scenes of the Tropics were painted mostly in watercolor, and his technique was the most advanced of its day—loose, fresh, spontaneous, almost impressionistic, although it never lost its basic grounding in naturalism.

The painting above is his “Summer Night” of 1890. It is a very luminous night scene in which two women are dancing by the seaside during some kind of celebration. The dark mysterious figures in the background seem to be an audience and yet they are not. It looks as though they are gazing out to sea rather than at the women. The women are in the light, almost as if spotlit, while behind them, the moon shines, reflected on the sea. It is a puzzling painting full of intrigue and mystery. Rather surrealistic and dreamlike, it captivates the viewer and haunts one’s memory.

1 comment:

  1. what a lovely painting. I had not heard of this artist before.