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Winslow Homer, the Quintessential American Artist

The aesthetic ideal of this time was the combination of beauty and convenience of life.

Photo: Wikipedia
American culture, unlike the European one, didn`t have a long history and established traditions. It searched for symbols of heroism and resilience, as the conquerors of the American world were themselves.

In the mid-19th century, young people in cities could make culture be the meaning of their lives. Professional trends arose on the ground of the world standards, but not the colonialists' simple life. 

The aesthetic ideal of this time was the combination of beauty and convenience of life. Since the 20s of the 19th century, America's capital began to massively buy paintings and sculptures decorating the new republic. 

The true American realism is shown through the Winslow Homer paintings. In his works, there are psychological tension and the accuracy of artistic images. 

Many of his works can be seen on our website
Image: Wikipedia

Own ideals 

Like most ancestors conquering the West, Homer couldn`t boast that everything was coming to him an easy way. He had to work hard before fame came to him, and he could afford to earn what he loved most of all. 

Many art historians believe that it was Homer who greatly influenced the development of American painting. He didn`t seek ideals among European trendsetters, but he sought his own path. And it is worth admitting, he succeeded. He is associated with the first illustrious American artists who created the American art school. 

Biographers say that Homer completely went into creativity by the end of his life and led a solitary life. 

Early years 

Homer was born in Boston in 1836. His family was far from being wealthy, having three sons. His parents Charles Sivedge Homer Sr. and Henrietta Benson Homer, belonged to the middle class. The father kept a store, which provided a small income for the family, and his mother was an artist. It was she who learned Winslow to draw and love painting. The first pictures of the future artist reflected his native city's daily life, and later of New York, where he later moved in the early 1880s. 

Homer didn't receive an education. But instead, he joined one of the most famous lithographic companies in the United States, J. H. Bufford's, and then at Harper's Weekly magazine. 

At the age of 18, Homer was copying pictures and drawing prints, which later became photos on the pages of newspapers and magazines. There he honed his skill in depicting details, but there was no room for creativity as his task was simply to reproduce the details. Such work was not much appreciated in lithography, and Homer's works were published even without mentioning his name on them. 

And even when Winslow’s responsibilities became wider, and he made sketches during various events, his works could be published with just a sign of a “special artist.” Thus, he depicted the events of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861. 

Sometimes Homer managed to leave an autograph in the corner of his work, which made it possible afterward to recognize at least some of them. Others can be identified by the recognizable style of Homer.

The Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln
The Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln

Along with the illustrator's mechanical work, which brought the main income, Homer was engaged in fine art. He was in no hurry to leave his main career since the painting was not considered a prestigious occupation that could provide one`s living. And besides that, Homer would further care for his father as he would have lost all his money in the gold rush race. 

However, Winslow Homer dreamed of a career as an artist and began attending classes at the National Academy of Design, a leading U.S. educational institution of the time. Also, he took private lessons from Frederick Rondel and Thomas Sayre Cummings. In 1860, his watercolor painting Ice Skating in Central Park took the rightful place at an exhibition at the National Academy of Design. 

Homer intended to continue his studies in Europe, but the Civil War interfered with his plans. 

Heyday, mature years 

Remaining to live in New York from 1860-1870, Homer earned a reputation as a famous artist and illustrator. Among his works, one could find many stories about the Civil War. They even exhibited at the world exhibition in Paris. We can say that, finally, the dream came true, and Winslow got to Europe, accompanying his works. 

There he received inspiration while observing European artists' paintings with a quiet everyday life, images of women and children playing. Upon returning to his homeland, the artist began to paint in a new style and technique. His work was approved by the publicity, which allowed him to finally leave the illustrator's work and dive into his favorite thing. 

At the age of 44, Homer settles in the northeast of England in Cullercoats' small town. He spent a year and a half among brave men battling against the forces of Mother Nature to provide for their families. 

The characters of his work are real people whom he depicted from life or by memory. And watching the fishing of crabs, repairing nets, and the life of sailors, he also admired the courage of women who were waiting for their husbands. Sometimes the artist is even immersed in water to realistically depict sailors' clothing adhering to the body. The artist fell in love with the seaside lifestyle so much that the marine theme takes a special place in his works.

The Lobster Pot, 1880

Sunset of life but not of art

At the age of 47, Homer settles in the State of Maine on the southern peninsula. The works of this period are literally saturated with sea salt. He painted local landscapes during his travels. In Maine Winslow Homer's paintings, the author showed how fragile human life was in the fight against nature. 

In the last years of his life, Homer avoided communicating with people. The artist spent more and more time alone, completely immersed in work. Even the images of people gradually disappeared from his paintings. 

He passed away at the age of 74 in his studio in Pruts Neck. The news went almost unnoticed. 

Winslow became a world-famous artist and could be called Homer the great. As it often happens, talent was appreciated after the life of its owner. In the early 21st century, the Portland Art Museum made the museum out of the house and studio in which Homer worked in his last days.



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Mabzicle: Winslow Homer, the Quintessential American Artist
Winslow Homer, the Quintessential American Artist
The aesthetic ideal of this time was the combination of beauty and convenience of life.
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