Winslow Homer



Occupation 1



NA/New England region


Age of Steam and Steel (1866-1920)








Most renowned 19th-century American painter of seascapes.

Homer� left New York [in the spring of 1881] for the dour fishing village of Cullercoats on the northeast coast of England, just a few miles from Tynemouth. Homer was now forty-five, and his purpose in traveling abroad was wholly focused. The most convincing of a number of explanations proposed for his choice of an obscure village for a stay of twenty months is that a summer colony of English painters had already demonstrated the subject opportunities in the simple, hard-working fishermen and their families. Another would be the world-famous dangers of this treacherous coast--and the equally famous Tynemouth life-saving station. In his illustrations Homer had occasionally touched on the terrors of the sea. In choosing Cullercoats he seems to have fixed on this theme as the medium for deepening the expressive range of his art.

In Cullercoats Homer used watercolor and charcoal almost exclusively, producing scores of scenes of the local men, women, and children working and waiting on the shore--especially waiting: the women, for the men to bring in the catch at dawn; the men of the life-saving brigades, for the possible disaster that would call them to dangerous rescue. The physical bulk and strength of the fisherfolk were matched by new expansiveness and strength in Homer's style and technique. His figures became monumental, his compositions simplified, but more significantly, the content of his paintings was transformed from the transitory moments of day-to-day life to the eternal tension between man and the elements, especially the dominating power of the sea over those who lived in close dependency on it�

Two subject ideas� occupied Homer on his return to his New York studio for the winter of 1883-1884. Undertow (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute), the dramatic rescue of two women swimmers, which Homer certainly began that winter, was three years in process. But The Life Line (Philadelphia Museum of Art), depicting the rescue of a shipwrecked woman by the breeches buoy device, was completed in time to be shown at the National Academy spring exhibition of 1884�

The Life Line was followed by an informal series of large, dramatic narrative paintings depicting the American commercial fisherman's hard work and high risk at the Grand Banks: The Herring Net (Art Institute of Chicago), The Fog Warning (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), Lost on the Grand Banks (private collection), all 1885. These three and Undertow (finished and first shown in 1886) represented Homer in the major exhibitions of the next several years�

Related Images

external image head5_winslow_homer_1863.jpg
Date: 1863
Image Id: 1119
external image art6_beach_rescue_from_undertow_1900.jpg
Image Id: 1187
external image art6_cat_boat_heeling_1873.jpg
Image Id: 1189
external image art6_gloucester_rowboat_1873.jpg
Image Id: 1191
external image art6_gulf_stream_1899.jpg
Date: 1899
Image Id: 1192
external image homerherringnet.jpg
Image Id: 1461
external image winslowhomerdory.jpg
Image Id: 1462
external image monlight_homer.jpg
Image Id: 1814

Related Source

Seascape and the American Imagination
American Marine Painting

Record ID: 516