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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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?

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By Andrew Davis, Museum Building Reinstallation Project

I didn’t set out to plan museum exhibitions. It evolved quite naturally.  Early on in the planning of ClarkNOW, the curatorial team knew that the next several years would be extremely busy. Plans for each exhibition would have to be fleshed out on a small, legible scale before becoming reality. I have an aptitude for the kind of meticulous work that makes some people run screaming, as well as the ability to draw accurately from life, think visually and abstractly, and keep pace with the revisions and changes of direction that a project of this scope will always have.

Synergy was magical as we designed Clark Remix, which presents highlights from the Clark’s permanent collection of paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts in a dynamic, interactive space that will allow audiences to engage with the collection in new ways. Clark Remix will be presented in Gallery E, where more than 80 paintings and hundreds of decorative objects will need to fit neatly in a relatively small space. We explored many layouts before selecting a final arrangement of paintings. In this version, a paperboard Reese Witherspoon strolls through a minimally appointed gallery space, enjoying the surfeit of art on the walls.

To ensure we had shelf space for our hundreds of decorative arts objects, I made life-size two-dimensional mock-ups of every teacup, spoon, tankard, mold-blown glass, and porringer on view. Luckily, there were already digital images on file for most of these. First, I made these images actual-size (which sounds easier than it is), then I printed the photos, glued them to mat board, and cut the shapes with an X-Acto knife.

Humble means can achieve impressive ends. For the attractive hardwood floors pictured below, I manipulated a generic digital image into sheets of hardwood wallpaper. I printed them, and then measured and cut them as you might cut wall-to-wall carpeting, and glued them into place.

To really appreciate the high-impact results you can get through low-tech means, just take a look at these life-size paintings I made for Gallery E:

We couldn’t afford to be off by an inch when hanging the Clark’s paintings this densely, so my trusty Sharpie and I made an actual-size stand-in for every work we wanted to use. These are quick studies, done free-hand: first loosely in pencil, then loosely again in marker. Indispensible to our planning, they had the personal benefit of revealing more to me about the collection than I would ever have learned through any research, reading, or hours spent walking through the galleries.

Working in the same scale as the originals allowed me to experience the impact of scale from both the creator’s and spectator’s viewpoints. Making studies from the masters is a time-honored method of learning about art. Reproducing nearly 100 paintings from the Clark’s collection allowed me to walk along with them a bit as they created these artworks in the first place.

Many of the paintings are now on the walls, and the decorative arts are in their cases. We’re nearing completion, and hope you’ll come see the exhibition when it opens on February 12. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at Clark Remix!

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By Sarah Lees, Associate Curator of European Art

As the in-house curator for Rembrandt and Degas, an exhibition that was first shown at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I worked with my colleagues to decide how we would present these prints and paintings at the Clark—meaning both how to place them within our gallery space, and what to say about them.

As I worked on the installation, I realized that I was thinking about the artists in more personal terms than I expected, rather than seeing the show as primarily a set of themes or images. That’s because the exhibition consists entirely of portraits, most of them self-portraits, which means that it’s easier than usual to imagine being the artist as he stood in front of his canvas, deciding how to portray himself. It’s really that process of thinking that struck me most—you can see Rembrandt considering how different expressions look, and also trying out different kinds of approaches to convey them, using lighter or darker shadows in prints and paintings, and thin or thick lines in his prints.

Degas does the same thing, but he also clearly thinks about the artists who came before him, and how they made portraits. If you were Degas in 1857 or so, looking into a mirror and then at a blank canvas or etching plate, wouldn’t you see not just your own features but also those of Rembrandt—and Ingres and Delacroix and Titian—and wouldn’t you have to decide whether to reject their examples or follow them a little bit—or a lot?

Degas’s etching of his friend and fellow printmaker Joseph-Gabriel Tourny is probably the best example of the French artist adopting some of Rembrandt’s ideas. Tourny wears a Rembrandtesque hat and sits at a window with a stack of paper, just as Rembrandt did in one of his self-portraits, and wears an ambiguous expression that many of the faces in the exhibition share, his head largely in shadows. And Degas printed this image over and over again in different ways, following a method for which Rembrandt had become famous. Even though we’re only showing one version of it, you can see evidence of Degas’s thought process in the two different framing lines that he drew around the central image.

When you see this image in the context of this exhibition, you can find a surprising number of ideas coming together in this one portrait, and maybe you can even feel a little bit closer to that small room with its fringed curtain and sturdy table, and to the artist Tourny is looking at…

Image Credits:

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait with Beret and Neck Cloth, 1633. Etching second state, 13.9 x 11.9 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-32

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), The Engraver Joseph Tourny, 1857. Etching; sixth printing on Japanese vellum, 32.2 x 25.1 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. H.O.   Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, 1929, 29.107.55  [© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art   Resource, NY]

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