He set to work on a series of war-related paintings based on his sketches, among them Sharpshooter on Picket Duty , Home, Sweet Home , and Prisoners from the Front He exhibited Home, Sweet Home at the National Academy and its remarkable critical reception resulted in its quick sale and in the artist being elected an Associate Academician, then a full Academician in After the war, Homer turned his attention primarily to scenes of childhood and young women, reflecting his own, and the country's, nostaglia for simpler times.
At nearly the beginning of his painting career, the twenty-seven year old Homer demonstrated a maturity of feeling, depth of perception, and mastery of technique which was immediately recognized.
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His realism was objective, true to nature, and emotionally controlled. One critic wrote, "Winslow Homer is one of those few young artists who make a decided impression of their power with their very first contributions to the Academy He at this moment wields a better pencil, models better, colors better, than many whom, were it not improper, we could mention as regular contributors to the Academy. The delicacy and strength of emotion which reign throughout this little picture are not surpassed in the whole exhibition.
There is no strained effect in it, no sentimentality, but a hearty, homely actuality, broadly, freely, and simply worked out. After exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, Homer finally traveled to Paris, France in where he remained for a year. His most praised early painting, Prisoners from the Front, was on exhibit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris at the same time. He did not study formally but he practiced landscape painting while continuing to work for Harper's, depicting scenes of Parisian life.
Homer painted about a dozen small paintings during the stay. Although he arrived in France at a time of new fashions in art, Homer's main subject for his paintings was peasant life, showing more of an alignment with the established French Barbizon school and the artist Millet, then with newer artists Manet and Courbet. Though his interest in depicting natural light parallels that of the early impressionists, there is no evidence of direct influence as he was already a plein-air painter in America and had already evolved a personal style which was much closer to Manet than Monet.
Unfortunately, Homer was very private about his personal life and his methods even denying his first biographer any personal information or commentary , but his stance was clearly one of independence of style and a devotion to American subjects. As his fellow artist Eugene Benson wrote, Homer believed that artists "should never look at pictures" but should "stutter in a language of their own.
Throughout the s Homer continued painting mostly rural or idyllic scenes of farm life, children playing, and young adults courting, including Country School and The Morning Bell In , Homer quit working as a commercial illustrator and vowed to survive on his paintings and watercolors alone.
Biography of Winslow Homer
Despite his excellent critical reputation, his finances continued to remain precarious. His popular painting, Snap-the-Whip, was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as was one of his finest and most famous paintings Breezing Up Of his work at this time, Henry James wrote:. Many disagreed with James. Breezing Up, Homer's iconic painting of four boys out for a leisurely sail, received wide praise.
The New York Tribune wrote, "There is no picture in this exhibition, nor can we remember when there has been a picture in any exhibition, that can be named alongside this. The same straightforward sensibility which allowed Homer to distill art from these potentially sentimental subjects also yielded the most unaffected views of African American life at the time, as illustrated in Dressing for the Carnival and A Visit from the Old Mistress From through Homer exhibited often at the Boston Art Club. Works on paper, both drawings and watercolors, were frequently exhibited by Homer beginning in A most unusual sculpture by the Artist, Hunter with Dog - Northwoods, was exhibited in Homer became a member of The Tile Club, a group of artists and writers who met frequently to exchange ideas and organize outings for painting, as well as foster the creation of decorative tiles.
For a short time, he designed tiles for fireplaces.
Homer started painting with watercolors on a regular basis in during a summer stay in Gloucester, Massachusetts. From the beginning, his technique was natural, fluid and confident, demonstrating his innate talent for a difficult medium. His impact would be revolutionary. Here, again, the critics were puzzled at first, "A child with an ink bottle could not have done worse. But his watercolors proved popular and enduring, and sold more readily, improving his financial condition considerably. They varied from highly detailed Blackboard - to broadly impressionistic Schooner at Sunset - Some watercolors were made as preparatory sketches for oil paintings as for "Breezing Up" and some as finished works in themselves.
Thereafter, he seldom traveled without paper, brushes and water based paints. As a result of disappointments with women or from some other emotional turmoil, Homer became reclusive in the late 's, no longer enjoying urban social life and living instead in Gloucester.
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For a while, he even lived in a lighthouse on an island with the keeper's family. In re-establishing his love of the sea, Homer found a rich source of themes while closely observing the fishermen, the sea, and the marine weather. After , he rarely featured genteel women at leisure, focusing instead on working women. Homer spent two years - in the English coastal village of Cullercoats, Northumberland. Many of the paintings at Cullercoats took as their subjects working men and women and their daily heroism, imbued with a solidity and sobriety which was new to Homer's art, presaging the direction of his future work.
He wrote, "The women are the working bees.
His subjects more universal and less nationalistic, more heroic by virtue of his unsentimental rendering. Although he moved away from the spontaneity and bright innocence of the American paintings of the 's and 's, Homer found a new style and vision which carried his talent into new realms. Back in the U. Critics noticed the change in style at once, "He is a very different Homer from the one we knew in days gone by", now his pictures "touch a far higher plane They are works of High Art.
In , Homer moved to Prout's Neck, Maine in Scarborough and lived at his family's estate in the remodeled carriage house just seventy-five feet from the ocean.
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During the rest of the mid's, Homer painted his monumental sea scenes. In Undertow , depicting the dramatic rescue of two female bathers by two male lifeguards, Homer's figures "have the weight and authority of classical figures". In Eight Bells , two sailors carefully take their bearings on deck, calmly appraising their position and by extension, their relationship with the sea; they are confident in their seamanship but respectful of the forces before them. Some of these he repeated as etchings. At fifty years of age, Homer had become a "Yankee Robinson Crusoe, cloistered on his art island" and "a hermit with a brush".
The next year, several of his paintings were displayed at the National Academy of Design. In , he was elected to the National Academy of Design.
In , after the end of the Civil War, his painting called Prisoners from the Front was exhibited at the academy. In , Homer completed Long Branch, New Jersey , which depicted fashionable women walking along the seashore. In , he completed Snap the Whip , which depicted children playing in a meadow. In , Homer started to work with watercolor.
During this time, he made numerous paintings that depicted women as single figures. Later in the s, Homer began painting nature scenes in watercolor. He focused on reflected light, which added complexity to the paintings. In , Homer traveled to England. He spent two years there sketching and painting in Cullercoats, a fishing port on the North Sea, where he experienced his greatest period of artistic growth. Homer was inspired by the life of the people of Cullercoats. In his work he depicted the courageous women who mended fishing nets, took care of the house, and waited for their husbands to return from sea.
In , Homer returned to America. He moved to the fishing village of Prouts Neck, Maine, where he isolated himself from society. During this time, Homer began to paint seascapes.