Feeds:
Posts
Comments

By John Boudreau, Communications Intern

After Winslow Homer, Our National Winter Exercise--Skating, Publ. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 13 Jan 1866. Wood engraving on newsprint, Sheet 41.9 x 59.4 cm. The Clark, 1955.4694

After Winslow Homer, Our National Winter Exercise–Skating, Publ. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 13 Jan 1866. Wood engraving on newsprint, Sheet 41.9 x 59.4 cm. The Clark, 1955.4694

 

One of the great things about visiting Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History is that everyone who looks at Homer’s works reacts to them in a different way. They evoke different emotions, stories, and sentiments from every viewer. With Your Favorite Homer, we’ll ask some of the Clark’s employees to share their reactions to their favorite work of art in the exhibit.

Though Homer’s oil paintings and watercolors receive a lot of attention—and rightly so—Alison has always found herself drawn to the artist’s wood engravings. “I think wood engravings are often overlooked, so I’m really pleased that there’s a whole room in the exhibition devoted to this medium,” she said. “The paintings are beautiful, but I just feel like these tell more of a story.”

The narrative in Our National Winter Exercise is a multi-faceted one. “You can see how playful it is,” Alison said. “This woman fell and her muff has gone flying and her skirts are up so you can see the hoop skirts underneath. But you’re also very much aware of being an observer because everyone’s backs are turned to you—there’s a sense of anonymity because you don’t see most of the people’s faces.”

Although an illustration for a newspaper rather than an iconic painting, the engraving is still very much a work of art in Alison’s eyes. “Even though the women are wearing skirts, I still think it’s a study of human form and movement,” she said. “You can still see Homer’s painterly technique—the way he manipulates the brush, his precision.”

Depicting the human body in motion is a trend Alison has noticed in other engravings by Homer. “The repetition of the four people holding hands in Snap-the-Whip (1873) is a bit like the group of skaters in the background in Our National Winter Exercise. These are older people, but in a sense they are still children, just dressed as adults.”

Alison Tinsdale is the assistant to the Chief Advancement Officer. She completed her graduate work in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and has been at the Clark since September 2012.

By John Boudreau, Communications Intern

In 1869, Reverend William H.H. Murray published a book entitled Adventures in the Wilderness; or, Camp-Life in the Adirondacks, which detailed the health benefits of vacationing in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. His book was a sensation, and scores of tourists rushed north from New York City to take advantage of the area’s clean air and pristine landscapes. Their vacations emphasized outdoor activity—hiking, fishing, and hunting—a far cry from the leisurely beach holidays popular at the time.

Winslow Homer, Two Guides, 1877. Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 38 1/4 in. (61.6 x 97.2 cm). The Clark, 1955.3

Winslow Homer, Two Guides, 1877. Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 38 1/4 in. (61.6 x 97.2 cm). The Clark, 1955.3

One such tourist was Winslow Homer. In 1870, he produced one of his first works set in the Adirondacks, aptly entitled An Adirondack Lake. It would, in some ways, set the mold for his later paintings: the Adirondack landscape is a tangible presence in the painting, but so too is the figure of a wilderness guide. These guides were often local men who took tourists around to prime hunting and fishing locations and otherwise ensured that their paying customers enjoyed their time in the woods. The guide soon became a popular archetype—“‘rough fellows, good shots, brawny and big of limb, the descendants of [James Fenimore Cooper’s] Leatherstocking’” as the Boston Evening Transcript put it in 1892.[1] These are the figures we see most visibly in paintings like Two Guides, but the guide also plays a minor role in other Homer paintings—notice the figure in the boat in An October Day.

Winslow Homer, An October Day, 1889. Watercolor over graphite, with scraping, on cream wove paper, 14 1/16 x 19 3/4 in. (35.7 x 50.2 cm). The Clark, 1955.770

Winslow Homer, An October Day, 1889. Watercolor over graphite, with scraping, on cream wove paper, 14 1/16 x 19 3/4 in. (35.7 x 50.2 cm). The Clark, 1955.770

Chief among Homer’s many Adirondack watercolors, An October Day captures the region as few other artists could. “The shores and mountains are splendidly dressed in the red and yellow robes of autumn, and there are vivid blue tones in the water of the lake. The coloring is intense, but it is neither unreal nor unpictorial,” the New-York Tribune raved in 1890.[2]

This realistic element in Homer’s paintings was arguably one of his greatest strengths. He made the Adirondacks come to life—no longer stationary landscapes nor an abstract stretch of forest, but a living environment that tourists, woodsmen, and animals inhabited. For those who couldn’t experience it for themselves, Homer’s Adirondack paintings served as a breath of fresh air.

A great way to learn more about Homer’s relationship with the Adirondacks is to attend the Clark’s next free lecture. Scholar David Tatham, who has published extensively on Homer and the Adirondacks, will lecture on Sunday, July 21 at 3 pm. His talk, “The Call of the Once-Wild: Winslow Homer and the Adirondacks 1870–1910,” will explore the holdings in the Clark’s collection as well as other Adirondack-themed paintings by Homer.


[1] Nicolai Cikovsky Jr, “Something More than Meets the Eye” in Winslow Homer, eds. Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr and Franklin Kelly, (National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1995), 260.

[2] Susannah Maurer in Winslow Homer, the Clark Collection, ed. Marc Simpson, (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institue, Williamstown, MA, 2013),  95.

By John Boudreau, Communications Intern

1970.1

After Winslow Homer, Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake, 1889. Etching and aquatint on beige wove paper, sheet 53.7 x 68.9 cm. The Clark, 1970.1

 

One of the great things about visiting Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History is that everyone who looks at Homer’s paintings will react to them in a different way. They evoke different emotions, stories, and sentiments from every viewer. With Your Favorite Homer, we’ll ask some of the Clark’s employees to share their reactions to their favorite work of art in the exhibit.

Geoffrey HeddenFly Fishing, Saranac Lake (1889) and Summer Squall (1904)

Although Geoffrey doesn’t typically pick just one favorite piece of work from an artist, he most admires Homer’s depiction of water. He cited the etching Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake and the oil painting Summer Squall as two idyllic examples.

“Water is tough,” Geoffrey said. “Water refracts, it reflects, it bends. It doesn’t have a hard angle, so light and water is really tough to capture. Homer does it pretty well in black and white, but it’s when he starts getting to color that he really shows off his skill.”

For Geoffrey, Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake serves as a good example of Homer’s early approach to depicting light and water. “The defining lines on the reflection aren’t minutely detailed,” he said. “You can see Homer has thought and realized he doesn’t need to have every line. Sometimes it’s a hint of something that creates the same feeling. I get reflection off of that. I buy it.”

The sea is a frequent subject in Homer’s later painting, and Geoffrey wondered if it may have mildly obsessed Homer. “It seems to me that somewhere this idea of water, the challenge of representing water, kind of took over some of his work,” he said.

Winslow Homer, Summer Squall, 1904. Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. (61.6 x 76.8 cm). The Clark, 1955.8

Winslow Homer, Summer Squall, 1904. Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. (61.6 x 76.8 cm). The Clark, 1955.8

In Summer Squall, the stormy matte blues and grays of Homer’s palette help set the tone of the painting, but it’s the artist’s work on the foam that Geoffrey finds most interesting. “That foam has got a unique texture to it,” he said. “Capturing it and giving it that little bit of reality is difficult. If you back up far enough from the canvas, the foam is pretty convincing.”

Above all, Geoffrey was quick to credit Homer’s skill as an artist. “A lot of people don’t understand the practice that goes into making art. You train yourself what to look for. You don’t know what it’s going to be, I don’t think, in each instance, but when you look at something and you decide ‘that’s what I want to represent,’ the rest follows from it,” he said. “A painting can be very simple and still evocative.”

Geoffrey Hedden is a shipping and receiving clerk at the Clark. When his wife found a job in the area 15 years ago, he found a position at the Clark shortly thereafter. “I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. When he’s not working, he’s likely to be found in the galleries.

By John Boudreau, Communications Intern

Homer_Snap the whip

After Winslow Homer, Snap-the-Whip publ. in Harper’s Weekly 20 Sept. 1873. Wood engraving on newsprint, Sheet 40.2 x 56.3 cm. The Clark, 1955.4354

One of the great things about visiting Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History is that everyone who looks at Homer’s works will react to them in a different way. They evoke different emotions, stories, and sentiments from every viewer. With Your Favorite Homer, we’ll ask some of the Clark’s employees to share their reactions to their favorite work of art in the exhibit.

Dana Audia, Snap-the-Whip (1873)

This particular print, which ran in the September 20, 1873 edition of Harper’s Weekly, has always caught Dana’s eye. “We played this growing up, though in Texas we called it Crack the Whip,” she said. It’s a game familiar to generations of children: a line of players join hands and run in a zig-zag motion, trying to “snap” the last person off of the line. “The main thing,” Dana said, “is that if you’re the second to last person in the chain, you don’t want the last person to fall off—because then you’re the one on the end!”

“I think Homer shows the motion and the movement of the game really well,” she continued. “He shows every part—the running, trying to hold on—and I can just see it happening.”

Though the print was published just after the Civil War ended, Dana was struck by the timelessness of the image. “I was playing the same game a hundred years later,” she said. “It could be happening outside right now.”

Dana was also interested by the absence of adults in the piece. “Maybe Homer didn’t put parents in the print because they didn’t have to be close—this is a fairly restrained game for the time, I guess.”

“Although today,” she added with a laugh, “their parents would probably make them wear a helmet.”

Dana Audia is events manager at the Clark. Originally from Amarillo, Texas, she completed her graduate work at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and worked for many years in the hospitality industry. She started at the Clark in February after a stint working for the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

By John Boudreau, Communications Intern

No one knows quite why Homer decided to leave the United States to travel abroad in 1881. It wasn’t the first time he had left New York City to focus on his painting, but it was the first time he had spent significant time in another country to paint. Perhaps, as Franklin Kelly, deputy director of the National Gallery, has said, Homer set out for England because “he had come to feel that there was too much similarity in the people and the towns of America…he was seeking something new.”[1]

Homer decided to settle in Cullercoats, a fishing village of about 2,000 people on England’s northeast coast. It was among this rugged nautical environment—perhaps not that far removed in spirit from the Maine coast where he would later settle—that Homer felt he could work best.

Winslow Homer, Perils of the Sea, 1888. Etching on vellum. The Clark, 1955.1482

Winslow Homer Perils of the Sea, 1888. Etching on vellum, plate 41 x 53 cm, sheet 50 x 59.7 cm. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.1482

In a way, his trip to Cullercoats may have marked a turning point in Homer’s career. His paintings of rugged seascapes and the stolid wives of fishermen, like in Perils of the Sea (1881), were themes that he would return to later in his career—take a look at Saco Bay (1896), which is set on Maine’s coast but features women dressed similarly to Cullercoats women. Even his fascination with depicting sea rescues might be partly influenced by his time in the small village, which was home to a volunteer life-saving brigade that helped the Coast Guard rescue sailors from shipwrecks.

Homer wasn’t the first artist to settle in Cullercoats. It had been a well-known location for British artists for a decade by the time he arrived, so there was already a community of other artists who were interested in recording similar subjects. The typically reserved Homer, however, seems to have kept mostly to himself.

Homer_Saco Bay

Winslow Homer, Saco Bay, 1896. Oil on canvas, 23 13/16 x 37 15/16 in. (60.5 x 96.4 cm). Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.5

According to the village’s website, Homer kept a room in the Hudleston Arms hotel (number 17), and a separate studio at 12 Bank Top. Unsurprisingly, Homer’s studio was a very private place. Accessible only through one small door and partially surrounded by a retaining wall, it would have been difficult for passers-by to peer in while he was working. Naturally, the studio and his room at the Hudleston Arms had commanding views of the harbor below.

Both Homer’s old studio and the Hudleston Arms have long since been demolished, but the legacy of Cullercoats as an artists’ haven is still very much intact. A permanent Cullercoats Art Trail was recently established along the coast, allowing visitors to retrace some of Homer’s steps, and locals can point out the settings of some of his paintings. The contributions of Homer and his fellow artists were also recently celebrated in an exhibition at the Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths & Museum in the nearby town of Wallsend, proving that although he stayed only eighteen months, Homer affected Cullercoats just as much as Cullercoats affected him.


[1] Franklin Kelly, “A Process of Change” in Winslow Homer, eds. Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr and Franklin Kelly, (National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1995), 173.

By John Boudreau, Communications Intern

Homer_The Bridle Path

Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910), The Bridle Path, White Mountains 1868. Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 38 in. (61.3 x 96.5 cm). The Clark, 1955.2

One of the great things about visiting Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History is that everyone who looks at Homer’s paintings will react to them in a different way. They evoke different emotions, stories, and sentiments from every viewer. With Your Favorite Homer, we’ll ask some of the Clark’s employees to share their reactions to their favorite work of art in the exhibit.

Caedy Shultz-Loomis, The Bridle Path, White Mountains (1868)

It was perhaps inevitable that Caedy, who has been riding horses since she was a child, would select this Homer as her favorite. “I was just naturally drawn to this painting,” she said. “I like that he’s depicted the girl and her horse alone, making that the focal point of the painting.” In Caedy’s interpretation, Homer’s compositional choice may have some symbolic weight as well. “Riding can be a very solitary kind of activity, and it can be very much about just you and the horse and the experience that you’re sharing at that moment. She looks very relaxed and free, and that’s one of the things I love about riding. You feel like you’re removed from everything else around you.”

Caedy also appreciated the artist’s attention to detail—in this case, a sprig of vegetation caught in the horse’s bridle. “That’s cool,” she said. “I can think of all the times I’ve been riding in the woods and you duck down under a tree, but the horse just kind of goes along and gets something stuck in his bridle. That shows me that maybe Homer was a rider himself—he gets it.”

Caedy Shultz-Loomis is the Membership and Events Coordinator at the Clark. Originally from Bennington, Vermont, she attended school at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Upon graduating, she knew she was interested in a career in the arts, and in 2004, joined the staff of the Clark.

 

By John Boudreau, Communications Intern

This summer, the Clark’s blog will feature a variety of posts featuring our two new exhibitions, Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History, and George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci. We’ll ask staff members to pick their favorite paintings and fill you in on some lesser-known stories behind the artists and their art. Today, we’re focusing on Harper’s Weekly, a newspaper that published scores of Winslow Homer’s illustrations early in his career.

The well-informed citizen in nineteenth-century America would rarely have been caught without a copy of Harper’s Weekly, for which Winslow Homer regularly provided illustrations throughout the Civil War. For the average reader, a publication like Harper’s was indispensable—akin to a modern-day Craigslist, Huffington Post, and Tumblr rolled into one.

Image

After Winslow Homer, The War–Making Havelocks for the Volunteers publ. in Harper’s Weekly 29 June 1861. Wood engraving on newsprint, Sheet 40.6 cm x 28.4 cm. The Clark, 1955.1496

In the pre-television era, newspapers like Harper’s Weekly were not only the most reliable source of information, but virtually the only source of information. Interestingly, the New York-based paper circulated in both the Union and in the Confederacy throughout the Civil War.

Harper’s wide circulation meant that a cover illustration was not only prestigious, but also a good advertisement for the artist himself, something the shrewd Homer would have no doubt appreciated. Cover illustrations like The War—Making Havelocks for the Volunteers, which Homer made for the June 29, 1861 edition of the magazine, have Homer’s name prominently displayed in the lower right-hand corner of the print, broadcasting the artist’s talent to anyone who glanced at the cover. In a time before widespread photography, Homer was the equivalent of the photojournalist of his day.

Inside this edition of the magazine, the two-month-old Civil War was the focus of most of the news. An item entitled “Evacuation of Harper’s Ferry” discussed the recent retreat of a garrison of soldiers to Manassas Junction, Virginia, “where no doubt a grand stand will be made.” The  first battle of Manassas (also known as the First Battle of  Bull Run) would happen a month later. A poem entitled “Thirteen and Thirty-Four” offered some patriotic encouragement to Union soldiers: “Strike for the 34! Country and Home restore!” (There were thirty-four states in the Union when the war broke out in 1861.)

Harper’s didn’t limit itself to war coverage. This issue also contained humor columns, international news, and less patriotic poetry, as well as a range of advertisements. Not bad for a paper that cost six cents.

Speaking of newspapers, The Clark has brought them back to downtown Williamstown as of today. EXTRA!, located at 73 Spring Street in Williamstown, sells a variety of national and international news media in a laid-back and comfortable community atmosphere—equal parts reading room and newsstand. While there won’t be anything available for six cents, it can’t hurt to stop by and take a look!

Also, for those wondering what a havelock is, it’s a piece of cloth attached to the back of a soldier’s hat that protects the neck from the sun. Who knew?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,861 other followers