Winslow Homer: Breezing Up, Dressing for the Carnival, Eight Bells, Fog Warning, The Lifeline

Breezing Up

Breezing Up by Winslow Homer (1876). The great American novelist Henry James in his review of the work that Homer was exhibiting at the time which included Breezing Up wrote, “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”. Despite James Breezing Up among other works went on to become iconic truly original American art. Homer captured a moment where the participants were really in it as they say.

Carnival

Dressing for the Carnival (1877) currently in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and also known as “Preparing for the Carnival”. It is not unusual for some of Homer’s works to have an official name and to also be known by a popular name bestowed on them by public years ago. This work is known in particular for its unsentimental quality, Homer presenting the everyday life of African Americans more in the spirit of a candid photo rather then staged for effect.

eight bells

Eight Bells (1887) Homer had a kind of sea scene period Eight Bells was one of that last of a series that he did of scenes of the sea. As sailors probably know eight bells ring at the hours of four, eight, and twelve a.m. and p.m

The Fog Warning

The Fog Warning (1885) Homer had tremendous respect for those that made their living on the sea. In 1885 there was obviously no weather radar. Much of the time fisherman took calculated risks, measuring the likelihood of getting caught in bad weather versus getting the day’s catch to make a living.

The Life Line

The Lifeline (1884). Currently in  Philadelphia Museum of Art. If you take a survey course in the history of American art when you get to Homer this is likely to be one of the examples. Plenty of drama in comparison to some of his other work, but considering it was 1884 and Homer lived on the east coast, ship wrecks and the hazrads of sea journeys would have been not just a staple of news headlines, but part of everyday conversation. Homer did not paint this based on a ship wreck rescue that he actually saw, but rather from his imagination based on a demonstration he had seen of how this lifeline technique would work.

Homer had a pretty incredible life. The boys in Breezing Up probably dreamed of a life filled with the kinds of experiences that Winslow Homer had. During the Civil War he was sent to the front as an official illustrator/correspondent. After the war he spent a couple of years in the English coastal town of Cullercoats. He put a premium on his privacy and may have been one of the reasons that unlike some other American artists of the time he never taught art.