Desperately Seeking Homer

16 Jun 2014

The Red Canoe by Winslow Homer, watercolor painting, 1889.
The Red Canoe by Winslow Homer, watercolor painting, 1889.

Some years ago, Ann and I drove to New York to deliver a vanload of watercolor paintings to a gallery for a solo exhibition of my work. The exhibition was going up for a month, after which we could retrieve paintings still unsold and move them to the next venue. We decided to use the time in between for a little East Coast driving adventure and seek out as many Winslow Homer watercolor paintings on display as we could between Garrison, New York and Prout's Neck, Maine, where Homer lived.

We saddled-up the Westphalia and made our first destination Glens Falls, New York, to see the Hyde Collection pieces. These include works from Homer's painting trips to Cullercoats and the Adirondacks, featuring A Good One, Adirondacks—a real tour-de-force.

Pushing on into Massachusetts, we visited the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and then the Worcester Art Museum. What an education it was to see these well loved and long admired pictures up close and in the flesh, so to speak. One can learn volumes from looking at and analyzing originals. We paid particular attention to Homer's brushwork and the order in which he laid down his washes.

Playing Him (The North Woods) by Winslow Homer, watercolor painting.
Playing Him (The North Woods) by Winslow Homer, watercolor painting.

The next morning we headed off for the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, where we oohed-and-aahed over The North Woods (Playing Him). Wonderful.

On to the Portland Museum of Art collection, where we were fascinated by the museum's practice of putting little canvas window shades over each watercolor to protect it from even the very dimmest ambient light in the room. Portland is a beautiful city, and we decided to stay there for a while and enjoy its charms before decamping for Brunswick, Maine and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art collection.

Our pilgrimage wrapped up with visits to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, followed by the Colby Museum of Art in Waterville. We tried to see Homer's studio on Prout's Neck, but it wasn't open to the public back then. Disappointed, we consoled ourselves with a long stay in Acadia National Park—a truly remarkable place to see and paint. But that's another story . . .

If you have a favorite artist on your list, we highly recommend making an art-study excursion to take in as many works of theirs as possible. It will be educational, fun, and sure to give you lasting memories.

Be sure to visit The Artist's Road for more educational articles, step-by-step demonstrations and interviews with well-known artists.

--Ann & John


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Sparksrick51 wrote
on 21 Jun 2014 11:43 AM

I was privileged to view a box of Homer half-sheets from the archives of the Chicago Institute of Art. From a page of notes and a sketch, and with a print for reference I later did a half sheet copy of his "Stowing Sail" That was a true challenge.