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Winslow Homer

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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: American and Canadian Art: Biographies


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