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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.

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