Presentation on theme: "A Veteran in a New Field, c.1865 Winslow Homer 1836 - 1910."— Presentation transcript:
A Veteran in a New Field, c.1865 Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer c. 1890
Winslow Homer (February 24, 1836 – September 29, 1910) an American landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his marine subjects.Americanlandscape painter printmaker He is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th century America and a preeminent figure in American art.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1836, Homer was the second of three sons of Charles Savage Homer and Henrietta Benson Homer, both from long lines of New Englanders.Boston, Massachusetts His mother was a gifted amateur watercolorist and Homers first teacher, and she and her son had a close relationship throughout their lives. Homer took on many of her traits, including her quiet, strong-willed, terse, sociable nature; her dry sense of humor; and her artistic talent.
Largely self-taught, Homer began his career working as a commercial illustrator.
He took up oil painting and produced major studio works characterized by the weight and density he exploited from the medium.oil painting He also worked extensively in watercolor, creating a fluid and prolific oeuvre, primarily chronicling his working vacations.watercolor
Homer had a happy childhood, growing up mostly in then rural Cambridge, Massachusetts.Cambridge, Massachusetts He was an average student, but his art talent was on display early.
Homers father was a volatile, restless businessman who was always looking to make a killing. When Homer was thirteen, Charles gave up the hardware store business to seek a fortune in the California gold rush.California gold rush When that failed, Charles left his family and went to Europe to raise capital for other get-rich-quick schemes that didnt materialize.
After Homers high school graduation, his father saw an ad in the newspaper and arranged for an apprenticeship. Homers apprenticeship to a Boston commercial lithographer at the age of 19, was a formative but treadmill experience.apprenticeshiplithographer
He worked repetitively on sheet music covers and other commercial work for two years. By 1857, his freelance career was underway after he turned down an offer to join the staff of Harper's Weekly.Harper's Weekly From the time I took my nose off that lithographic stone, Homer later stated, I have had no master, and never shall have any.
Homers career as an illustrator lasted nearly twenty years.illustrator He contributed to magazines such as Ballou's Pictorial and Harper's Weekly Ballou's PictorialHarper's Weekly
The market for illustrations was growing rapidly, and when fads and fashions were changing quickly. His early works, mostly commercial engravings of urban and country social scenes, are characterized by clean outlines, simplified forms, dramatic contrast of light and dark, and lively figure groupings qualities that remained important throughout his career. His quick success was mostly due to this strong understanding of graphic design and also to the adaptability of his designs to wood engraving.wood engraving
Homer's studio In 1859, he opened a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City, the artistic and publishing capital of the United States.Tenth Street Studio BuildingNew York City Until 1863 he attended classes at the National Academy of Design, and studied briefly with Frédéric Rondel, who taught him the basics of painting. National Academy of Design
In only about a year of self-training, Homer was producing excellent oil work. His mother tried to raise family funds to send him to Europe for further study but instead Harper's sent Homer to the front lines of the American Civil War (1861– 1865), where he sketched battle scenes and camp life, the quiet moments as well as the murderous ones.American Civil War
His initial sketches were of the camp, commanders, and army of the famous Union officer, Major General George B. McClellan, at the banks of the Potomac River in October, 1861.George B. McClellanPotomac River
Although the drawings did not get much attention at the time, they mark Homer's expanding skills from illustrator to painter. Like with his urban scenes, Homer also illustrated women during war time, and showed the effects of the war on the home front.
The war work was dangerous and exhausting. Back at his studio, however, Homer would regain his strength and re-focus his artistic vision. He set to work on a series of war-related paintings based on his sketches, among them Sharpshooter on Picket Duty (1862), Home, Sweet Home (1863), and Prisoners from the Front (1866)
Sharpshooter on Picket Duty
Home Sweet Home
Prisoners from the Front
He exhibited Home, Sweet Home at the National Academy and its remarkable critical reception resulted in its quick sale. Homer was elected into the National Academy as an Associate Academician, then a full Academician in 1865.
After the war, Homer turned his attention primarily to scenes of childhood and young women, reflecting nostalgia for simpler times, both his own and the nation as a whole.nostalgia His Crossing the Pasture (1871–1872) depicts two boys who idealize brotherhood with the hope of a united future after the war that pitted brother against brother.
At nearly the beginning of his painting career, the twenty-seven year old Homer demonstrated a maturity of feeling, depth of perception, and mastery of technique which was immediately recognized. His realism was objective, true to nature, and emotionally controlled.
One critic wrote, … Winslow Homer is one of those few young artists who make a decided impression of their power with their very first contributions to the Academy...He at this moment wields a better pencil, models better, colors better, than many whom, were it not improper, we could mention as regular contributors to the Academy.
Critics wrote of Home, Sweet Home specifically, There is no clap-trap about it. The delicacy and strength of emotion which reign throughout this little picture are not surpassed in the whole exhibition. It is a work of real feeling, soldiers in camp listening to the evening band, and thinking of the wives and darlings far away. There is no strained effect in it, no sentimentality, but a hearty, homely actuality, broadly, freely, and simply worked out.
Early landscapes and watercolors After exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, Homer finally traveled to Paris, France in 1867 where he remained for a year.ParisFrance His most praised early painting, Prisoners from the Front, was on exhibit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris at the same time.Exposition Universelle He did not study formally but he practiced landscape painting while continuing to work for Harper's, depicting scenes of Parisian life.
Prisoners from the Front
Homer painted about a dozen small paintings during the stay. Although he arrived in France at a time of new fashions in art, Homer's main subject for his paintings was peasant life, showing more of an alignment with the established French Barbizon school and the artist Millet than with newer artists Manet and Courbet.Barbizon school MilletManet Courbet
Though his interest in depicting natural light parallels that of the early impressionists, there is no evidence of direct influence as he was already a plein- air painter in America and had already evolved a personal style which was much closer to Manet than Monet. impressionistsplein- airManetMonet
Unfortunately, Homer was very private about his personal life and his methods (even denying his first biographer any personal information or commentary), but his stance was clearly one of independence of style and a devotion to American subjects. As his fellow artist Eugene Benson wrote, Homer believed that artists should never look at pictures but should stutter in a language of their own.
Throughout the 1870s Homer continued painting mostly rural or idyllic scenes of farm life, children playing, and young adults courting, including Country School (1871) and The Morning Bell (1872). In 1875, Homer quit working as a commercial illustrator and vowed to survive on his paintings and watercolors alone. Despite his excellent critical reputation, his finances continued to remain precarious.
The Morning Bell
His popular 1872 painting, Snap-the-Whip, was exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as was one of his finest and most famous paintings Breezing Up (1876). Of his work at this time, Henry James wrote:Centennial ExpositionPhiladelphia, PennsylvaniaHenry James "We frankly confess that we detest his subjects...he has chosen the least pictorial range of scenery and civilization; he has resolutely treated them as if they were pictorial...and, to reward his audacity, he has incontestably succeeded."
Many disagreed with James. Breezing Up, Homers iconic painting of a father and three boys out for a spirited sail, received wide praise.Breezing Up The New York Tribune wrote, There is no picture in this exhibition, nor can we remember when there has been a picture in any exhibition, that can be named alongside this.
Visits to Petersburg, Virginia around 1876 resulted in paintings of rural African American life.Petersburg, VirginiaAfrican American The same straightforward sensibility which allowed Homer to distill art from these potentially sentimental subjects also yielded the most unaffected views of African American life at the time, as illustrated in Dressing for the Carnival (1877) and A Visit from the Old Mistress (1876)
Dressed for the Carnival
A Visit from the Old Mistress
Homer started painting with watercolors on a regular basis in 1873 during a summer stay in Gloucester, Massachusetts.watercolorsGloucester, Massachusetts From the beginning, his technique was natural, fluid and confident, demonstrating his innate talent for a difficult medium. His impact would be revolutionary.
Here, again, the critics were puzzled at first, "A child with an ink bottle could not have done worse. Another critic said that Homer made a sudden and desperate plunge into water color painting. But his watercolors proved popular and enduring, and sold more readily, improving his financial condition considerably.
Schooner at Sunset
Sailing a Dory
House in Santigo Cuba
The Fog Warning
After General Robert E. Lees surrender at Appomattox in April 1865, the Union and Confederate armies were peacefully disbanded.
The soldiers who had survived the ordeal were free to go home and resume their pre-war occupations.
Painted through summer and fall 1865, not long after the nation came to grips with Robert E. Lee's surrender and mourned President Lincoln's assassinationboth of which occurred during the second week of April Homer's canvas shows an emblematic farmer who is a Union veteran, as signified by his discarded jacket and canteen at the lower right.
The painting seems to blend several related narratives. Most soldiers had been farmers before the war. This man, who has returned to his field, holds an old-fashioned scythe that evokes the Grim Reaper, recalls the war's harvest of death, and expresses grief at Lincoln's murder.
The redemptive feature is the bountiful wheata northern cropwhich could connote the Union's victory.
With its dual references to death and life, Homer's iconic composition offers a powerful meditation on America's sacrifices and its potential for recovery.
The Veteran in a New Field depicts one of those Civil War veterans recently returned from the front, harvesting a field of grain in the midday sun.
The wheat has grown high, and the field stretches all the way to the horizon; An unusually bountiful crop had, in fact, marked the end of the war.
The farmers military jacket and canteen (with an insignia that identifies him as a former Union soldier) lie discarded in the foreground, almost covered by fallen stalks of grain.
Winslow Homer completed The Veteran in a New Field in the autumn of 1865, only a few months after Appomattox. The artist was a sort of veteran himself, having served on the front as an illustrator for the New York periodical Harpers Weekly.
In the sketches he made to accompany military reports, Homer tended to focus on the commonplace activities of a soldiers life rather than the climax of combat.
When he returned to civilian life and began to paint in oil, Homer continued to favor themes from ordinary life, such as this image of a soldier resuming work in the fields.
The optimistic spirit of Homers painting only makes its darker undertones more moving. The new field of the title cant mean this field of grain, which is obviously mature and ready to harvest. It must refer instead to the change in the veterans occupationwhich necessarily calls to mind his previous activity on the battlefield.
Because some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War had been fought in wheat fields, fields of grain, in popular consciousness, were associated with fields of fallen soldiers.
One particularly disturbing photograph of soldiers who had died in battle at Gettysburg was published with the title A Harvest of Death.
In keeping with those undertones, Homers veteran handles a single-bladed scythe.
By 1865, that simple farming implement was already out of date; a farmer would have used the more efficient cradle to mow a field that size.
In the original version of the painting, the veteran did work with a cradled scythe (its outline is faintly visible on the left side of the canvas), but Homer evidently decided to paint it out.
He replaced an emblem of modern technology with the more archaic tool, and gave a picture of a farmer in his field an unsettling reference to the work of the Grim Reaper, the age-old personification of death.
The Veteran in a New Field refers both to the desolation caused by the war and the countrys hope for the future.
It summons up the conflicting emotions that took hold of Americans Relief that the Civil War was over, and Grief for the many lives that had been lost.
Nor did the loss of lives end on the battlefield; Only days after Appomattox came the assassination of Abraham Lincoln The nation sank into a collective state of mourning.
The Veteran in a New Field thus takes on another dimension, An expression of despair over the senseless death of a great president.
The image of a soldier returning to his farm would have reassured Homers audience that life went on.
The veteran appears to have set aside his Army training along with what remained of his military uniform to harvest a field that once again yields the gift of golden wheat, which in Christianity is a symbol of salvation.
Even in the aftermath of the worst disasters, the artist seems to say, life has the capacity to restore itself.
Influence Homer never taught in a school or privately, but his works strongly influenced succeeding generations of American painters for their direct and energetic interpretation of man's stoic relationship to an often neutral and sometimes harsh wilderness.
American illustrator and teacher Howard Pyle revered Homer and encouraged his students to study him.Howard Pyle His student and fellow illustrator, N. C. Wyeth (and through him Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth), shared the influence and appreciation, even following Homer to Maine for inspiration.N. C. WyethAndrew WyethJamie Wyeth The elder Wyeths respect for his antecedent was intense and absolute, and can be observed in his early work Mowing (1907).
The Mowing, by NC Weyth
Perhaps Homer's austere individualism is best captured in his admonition to artists: "Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems."
Civil War Dresses
Come Up From the Fields Father Come up from the fields, father, here's a letter from our Pete, And come to the front door, mother, here's a letter from thy dear son. Lo, 'tis autumn, Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder, Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind, Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis'd vines, (Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines? Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)
Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and with wondrous clouds, Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well. Down in the fields all prospers well, But now from the fields come, father, come at the daughter's call, And come to the entry, mother, to the front door come right away. Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap. Open the envelope quickly, 0 this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd, 0 a strange hand writes for our dear son, 0 stricken mother's soul! All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main words only, Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital, At present low, but will soon be better. Ah, now the single figure to me, Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms, Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint, By the jamb of a door leans. Grieve not so, dear mother (the just-grown daughter speaks through her sobs, The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd),
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better. Alas, poor boy, he will never be better (nor maybe needs to be better, that brave and simple soul), While they stand at home at the door he is dead already, The only son is dead. But the mother needs to be better, She with thin form presently drest in black, By day her meals untouch'd, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking, In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing, 0 that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw, To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son. -Walt Whitman
Essay Question 1 Because a seemingly dead seed buried in the ground rises as a new plant, grain can be a symbol of rebirth or new beginnings. What might a bountiful field of wheat represent? What might this suggest about the country after the Civil War?
Essay Question 2 If this man had been in a grain field the previous year, what would he have been doing?
Essay Question 3 Please identify the symbolism found in the painting, A Veteran in a New Field.