American landscape, marine, and genre painter. Homer was born in Boston, where he later worked as a lithographer and illustrator. In 1861 he was sent to the battlefront as correspondent for Harper's Weekly, his work winning international acclaim. Many of his postwar studies of everyday life, such as Crack the Whip (Metropolitan Mus.), date from this period, during which he was a popular magazine illustrator. In 1876, Homer abandoned illustration to devote himself to painting. He found his inspiration in the American scene and, eventually, in the sea, which he painted at Prouts Neck, Maine, in the summer and in Florida or the Bahamas in the winter. His oils and watercolors alike are characterized by their directness, realism, objectivity, and splendid color. But it is above all as a watercolorist that Homer excelled. After 1884 he lived the life of a recluse. His powerful and dramatic interpretations of the sea in watercolor have never been surpassed and hold a unique place in American art. They are in leading museums throughout the United States. Characteristic watercolors are Breaking Storm and Maine Coast (both: Art Inst. of Chicago) and The Hurricane (Metropolitan Mus.). Characteristic oils include The Gulf Stream (1899) and Moonlight—Wood's Island Light (both: Metropolitan Mus.), and Eight Bells (1886; Addison Gall., Andover, Mass.).
See biographies by P. C. Beam (1966), John Wilmerding (1972), and Mary Judge (1986); studies by Lloyd Goodrich (1968 and 1972); Barbara Gelman, ed., The Wood Engravings of Winslow Homer (1969); Donelson Hoopes, Winslow Homer's Watercolors (1969); Philip C. Beam, Winslow Homer Watercolors (1983). Helen A. Cooper, Winslow Homer's Watercolors (1987).
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