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Posts Tagged ‘An October Day’

By John Boudreau, Communications Intern

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.

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

For Laura Bonito, An October Day is one of Homer’s most articulate watercolors. “You first see the mixture of colors in the landscape, and then there’s the challenge of painting the water because it’s reflecting both the sky and the colors of the leaves,” she said. “It’s a very American landscape, but the mountains remind me of the mountains where my parents were born outside of Naples [Italy], so everything seems very familiar to me, but also very strange.”

It’s also a complicated piece. “If you look at the landscape you could think it’s a peaceful scene,” she said. “But it’s really very dramatic—the representation of a struggle between life and death.” The contrast between the beauty of the landscape and the tension of the action is what initially drew Laura to the watercolor. The painting’s composition, however, leaves little doubt in Laura’s mind as to which side the artist was on. “I think Homer is trying to paint from the perspective of the deer rather than the hunters,” she said.

In Laura’s opinion, “the landscape is the protagonist of the painting.” The hunter, on the left-hand side of the painting, and his dog, rendered as a few black and white spots on the right-hand shore, don’t appear to be the focus of the work, and the human element is both literally and metaphorically put in the background. Instead, the watercolor seems to be primarily a meditation on nature and mortality. “You see the same theme in John Constable’s Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds in the National Gallery in London,” she said. “It’s sort of the European example of this type of painting.”

Laura Bonito is a curatorial intern originally from Italy. She is at the Clark for the summer as a part of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ BHIP internship program, which pairs students interested in museum work with area museums. She graduated last year from the University of Pisa, and is taking the opportunity to travel and enrich her CV while working on her PhD.

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