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5.0 out of 5 stars A marvellous comprehensive catalogue, 12 Oct. 2013
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winslow Homer (Hardcover)
This is one of the life-enhancing catalogues of major exhibitions of the 1990s. "Winslow Homer" was shown at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art between October 1995 and September 1996. These locations were selected because Homer, arguably America's greatest and most national painter, was born and grew up in Boston, and developed as an artist and achieved success in New York.

The exhibition comprised 235 works that are reproduced in colour; in addition, the catalogue includes 252 figures, mostly black and white. Art scholars of international repute have written perceptive essays based upon the latest research, these address: `The School of War', `Modern and National', `Reconstruction', `Something More than Meets the Eye' and `Good Pictures' all by Nicolai Cikovsky Jr, `A Process of Change' and `Time and Narrative Erased' by Franklin Kelly, and `Innovation in Homer's Late Watercolours', by Judith Walsh. The illustrated Chronology and List of Exhibitions in Homer's Lifetime were developed by Charles Brock, and the book also contains a Select Bibliography and an Index of Titles.

In their Introduction, Cikovsky and Kelly emphasise that they have considered the artist and his works within the broader contemporary context that includes historical, social, political, intellectual and artistic aspects, as well as disentangling the psychological and sexual natures that Homer, the most reticent of artists, kept hidden during his lifetime. They point out that they were concerned to include works from across his career, beginning with the Civil War and ending with self-imposed exile at Prout's Neck, Maine. Had space and other considerations associated with the exhibition not been a constraint, many more works might have been accommodated.

Born in Boston in 1836, Homer first assisted a local lithographer before moving to New York in 1859 as a freelance newspaper reporter and illustrator. Amongst other assignments he was sent to the front lines in the Civil War ("The Sharpshooter on Picket Duty", 1863, reflecting the modernity of the telescopic sight which the artist abhorred, and "Prisoners from the Front", 1866, showing up differences between the two sides and within the Confederate army).

The year the war ended he painted elegant young ladies, "Croquet Players", 1865, and declared his individuality with "Bridle Path, White Mountains", 1868. He moved on to genre works, for example, in 1872 he painted "Country School" and "Snap the Whip", using models for the latter, a rarity. "Crossing the Pasture", also from 1872, is illustrated on the front cover. In such works he addressed issues that were attractive to a people psychologically and physically drained by war. "Two Guides", 1875, and "Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)", 1876 were completed just after he decided to live by selling his paintings. Negro motifs, "The Cotton Pickers", 1876, and "The Carnival (Dressing for the Carnival)", 1877, attracted public interest and his figurative watercolours, "The New Novel (Book)" and "Blackboard", both 1877, proved attractive to collectors, as did seascapes such as "Gloucester Sunset" and "Sunset Fires", 1880.

In 1881, he left America and spent 2 years at Cullercoats, in the north of England, where he painted watercolours of local people, fisherwomen, "Four Fisherwomen", 1881 and "Perils of the Sea", 1881, and genre works, "Beach Scene, Cullercoats", 1881, and "Mending the Nets", 1882. This was a turning point for the artist and, in this exhibition, is given the necessary attention.

In 1884, he recorded a "The Life Line" 1884, showing a rescue from the sea, which proved a great success. This, like his finished works, was developed from a great many studies. Other works that added to his reputation were the marine scenes "Undertow", 1886, and "Eight Bells", 1886. By 1890 he had moved to Prout's neck in Maine and continued to paint seascapes, "The Signal of Distress", 1890/1892-96, "High Cliff, Coast of Maine", 1894, and "Cannon Rock", 1895. In "Gulf Stream", 1899, he returned to a sketch of a dismasted yacht from 1885. His last work, "Right and Left", 1909, again indicates his outstanding ability to develop original motifs.

An ongoing theme of the artist was the landscape and seascape but, as is clearly shown, he did not see nature in terms of spirituality, as the earlier Transcendentalists had done, but as a potentially terrible force.
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Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer by Jr. Nicolai Cikovski (Hardcover - 1 Nov. 1995)
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