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Clark Museum in Williamstown opens show featuring over 200 works of Winslow Homer

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Fish and Butterflies," 1900. Watercolor over graphite on cream wove paper

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "Fish and Butterflies," 1900. Watercolor over graphite on cream wove paper Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "A Good Pool, Saguenay River," 1895. Watercolor over graphite, with scraping, on cream wove paper

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "A Good Pool, Saguenay River," 1895. Watercolor over graphite, with scraping, on cream wove paper Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Fisher Girl with Net," 1882. Graphite, gouache, and gray wash on gray laid paper

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "Fisher Girl with Net," 1882. Graphite, gouache, and gray wash on gray laid paper Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Perils of the Sea," 1888. Etching on vellum

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "Perils of the Sea," 1888. Etching on vellum Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Playing a Fish," 1875, reworked in the 1890s. Oil on canvas

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "Playing a Fish," 1875, reworked in the 1890s. Oil on canvas Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Sleigh Ride," c. 1890–95. Oil on canvas

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "Sleigh Ride," c. 1890–95. Oil on canvas Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Summer Squall," 1904. Oil on canvas<br/>

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "Summer Squall," 1904. Oil on canvas
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "The Bridle Path"

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "The Bridle Path" Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "The Eagle’s Nest," 1902. Watercolor over graphite on cream wove paper

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "The Eagle’s Nest," 1902. Watercolor over graphite on cream wove paper Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Two Guides," 1877. Oil on canvas

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "Two Guides," 1877. Oil on canvas Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Undertow," 1886. Oil on canvas

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "Undertow," 1886. Oil on canvas Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "West Point, Prout’s Neck," 1900. Oil on canvas

    PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
    Winslow Homer, "West Point, Prout’s Neck," 1900. Oil on canvas Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Fish and Butterflies," 1900. Watercolor over graphite on cream wove paper
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "A Good Pool, Saguenay River," 1895. Watercolor over graphite, with scraping, on cream wove paper
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Fisher Girl with Net," 1882. Graphite, gouache, and gray wash on gray laid paper
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Perils of the Sea," 1888. Etching on vellum
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Playing a Fish," 1875, reworked in the 1890s. Oil on canvas
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Sleigh Ride," c. 1890–95. Oil on canvas
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Summer Squall," 1904. Oil on canvas<br/>
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "The Bridle Path"
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "The Eagle’s Nest," 1902. Watercolor over graphite on cream wove paper
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Two Guides," 1877. Oil on canvas
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "Undertow," 1886. Oil on canvas
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE<br/>Winslow Homer, "West Point, Prout’s Neck," 1900. Oil on canvas

Winslow Homer was likely one the most prolific American artists of the 19th century. In a career that began as an in-demand illustrator, he also became one of the most admired and commercially successful painters of his era, winning particular renown for his oil and watercolor paintings of seascapes and the Northeast mountains.

And it’s possible Homer had no bigger fan than Sterling Clark, the wealthy collector who with his wife, Francine, founded the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. Clark purchased well over 200 of Homer’s works — oils, watercolors, drawings, etchings, wood engravings — during his lifetime and once declared Homer the greatest American artist.

To celebrate that bond, the Clark has opened a new summer exhibit paying homage to its founder’s collection and to additional Homer works acquired by the museum since its 1955 opening. “Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History,” which will run through Sept. 8, features the full range of the artist’s career and work, including an extensive showing of wood engravings in which Homer documented many aspects of 19th-century American life.

The exhibit also features some of Homer’s most well-known paintings, such as “Two Guides,” an 1877 oil that shows two men surveying the wooded expanses of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and the famous seascape “West Point, Prout’s Neck,” a 1900 oil that captured the rugged beauty of Maine’s rocky coast, with the shoreline and restless ocean set beneath soft, contemplative post-sunset light.

The latter painting, though it received criticism following its debut, is now considered one of Homer’s seminal works, Clark officials say, and Homer himself once called the seascape “the best thing I have painted.”

The exhibit’s curator, Marc Simpson, says the exhibit was created with two main goals: “We wanted to show the full span of [Homer’s] career, and we also wanted to show how dedicated Sterling Clark was to Homer’s art. He had a four-decade commitment to Homer ... the two of them are really entwined.”

Homer’s early career

The exhibit is arranged roughly chronologically but also by medium, with the initial gallery dedicated to dozens of illustrations that Homer (1836-1910) did for newspapers and periodicals, such as Harper’s Weekly, in the early part of his career. After growing up primarily in the Boston area and working briefly as an assistant for a lithographer, Homer opened a studio in New York City in the 1850s and became a busy freelance illustrator.

Many of these were wood engravings, Simpson notes, in which the original drawings that Homer did on the surface of wood blocks were somewhat altered by other men who actually carved the wood and sometimes added additional figures to an engraving — occasionally giving the final illustration a disjointed look.

Yet the illustrations remain a great historical resource, Simpson says, and he’s arranged them by topic to show the range of things Homer covered: the Civil War, rural life, seascapes, leisure activities, holidays, children’s games and more. The drawings — Homer also illustrated children’s books — point the way to the styles he would develop as a painter, and the pragmatic steps he would take to find markets for his work.

“These illustrations were really the digital media of that age,” said Simpson, the associate director of the graduate program in art history at Williams College. “He was able to create a name for himself and hone his style.”

Homer would take up painting, both oils and watercolors, almost exclusively in the 1870s, an artistic switch that coincided with his move first to Gloucester, and later to Maine, with a stint as well in the early 1880s on the coast of northeast England. Simpson said Homer became a particularly skilled watercolorist, with a technique that was fluid and confident and a palette of muted but rich colors.

In paintings like “Perils of the Sea,” which shows a gathering of grim-faced residents of an English coastal town looking toward a shipwreck, Homer also became much more interested in depicting people who worked at or with the sea, and less enamored with the more idyllic views of life he’d offered in many of his earlier illustrations.

Sterling Clark, Simpson notes, bought his first works by Homer in 1915 and steadily acquired others in the following decades. As part of his purchases, he also obtained some of Homer’s correspondence and some of his preliminary studies for his paintings.

For “Undertow,” a noted 1886 oil that shows two men pulling two near-drowned women out of the ocean, the exhibit includes several sketches and early graphite and chalk drawings of the painting, some with fewer figures; all of them, however, reveal Homer’s careful attention to the modeling of the human form.

“Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History” also showcases the artist’s somewhat blunt, no-nonsense approach to his business dealings. As an accompanying text in the exhibit puts it, he was “a pragmatic artist. For him, art was a business.” He once wrote to a prospective client in the postscript of a letter, “I will paint for money at any time. Any subject, any size.”

“He was concerned about money,” said Simpson. “He always looked for ways to expand his markets, to use different media to reach more people.” But Homer was also very dedicated to his work, Simpson added, and between his range of topics and styles, and the huge collection of Homer’s art that Clark amassed, “we’re able to tell a great story today about a great artist.”

“Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History” will be on display at the Clark through Sept. 8. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., September through June; it’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July through August. General admission from June 9 to Oct. 31 is $15; members, students with a valid ID and children under 18 can visit for free year round. For more information, visit www.clarkart.edu or call 456-2303.

Related

George Inness artwork on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Though on a much smaller scale than the Winslow Homer exhibit, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown recently opened another show, this one of work by American painter George Inness (1825-1894), who developed a signature style of ethereal pastoral landscapes. Innes used carefully crafted tones to evoke the spiritual essence of nature. The 10-painting show has been … 0

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