By John Boudreau, Communications Intern
For Julie Schwartz, the etching Saved immediately transports her back to the year she spent living on Nantucket. “On the island, your life is very governed by weather, and in the nineteenth century you can imagine how much more important it would have been,” she said.
Though Saved is not set on Nantucket, the life-saving technique Homer depicted was used on the island in the nineteenth century. “They would shoot ropes out to sinking ships with a gun,” Julie said, “then literally have a pulley that they used to haul people and goods off boats. Nantucket was one of the first ports to have several of these life-saving stations because shipwrecks were such a problem.”
The perils of the sea are a frequent theme in Homer’s paintings, and Julie suspects that it may have been a popular subject of the era. “People seemed to be very into the life-saving theme at the time, like Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa.”
Julie noted that much like the carefully posed figures in Géricault’s 1819 painting, there is a strong classical inspiration for the female form in Saved. “I feel like you can see some real parallels with the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum,” she said. “The figures are so dramatic.”
The heightened sense of drama in the etching is no accident. For his etchings, Homer generally based his composition on an earlier piece of art—in this instance The Life Line (1884)—but refocused the etching on the most dramatic moment of the painting or watercolor in a sort of nineteenth-century close-up.
Julie Schwartz is Director of Advancement Initiatives, a position she has held since March. Prior to arriving at the Clark, she spent a year on Nantucket with the Nantucket Artists’ Association and worked at Carnegie Hall. Originally from Stockbridge, Massachusetts, she says the Clark has always been her favorite museum.