Saturday, June 26, 2010

Homer seascapes

images from artrenewal.org and the athenaeum.org

In the 1880's Homers family bought up most of Prouts Neck, a point of land near Portsmouth , Maine. Homer turns a carriage house into a studio from which he can always keep an eye on the water. He paints surf paintings, mostly from sketches done on location around Prouts Neck.

Below I have posted a William Trost Richards seascape. Richards was the reigning seascape guy and was churning out these sorts of surf pictures, often they were huge. Richards is naturalistic and shows the anatomy of the waves. Homer is less interested in that, and his paintings are design exercises. What they lose in illustrative quality they gain in simplified monumentality. Although the Richards are wonderful, Homer operates at a higher more poetic level. They may be less of a seascape but they are more art.


Here is a combination of a seascape and one of his more typical narrative pictures.

Notice the big simple rocks in the foreground. This reminds me of Waugh, who was in 1892 just beginning to specialize in seascape. on the island of Sark.

The warm tree trunk in the lower part of the picture is the compliment of the color of the sea and is a foil for all of the restrained and cool, grayed out color in the rest of the piece.

I think the juxtaposition of warm and cool notes in this piece make it a tour de force. I suppose that is just earth colors and black, maybe a shot of Prussian in there. There are tiny figures in the upper left hand corner, I guess to give scale. Those who think that good color means lots of color should observe this painting that has very elegant and sophisticated color, but is not very high in chroma. A lot of "would be" colorists paint everything in bright, unalloyed high saturation, strident color and TOO LOUD! Good color means the beautiful arrangement of colors and not just the degree of chroma.

15 comments:

Terry said...

Hi Stape,
Sorry I missed you yesterday, finishing up a 27' x 14' mural (now don't laugh tooooo much!) of Mt Fuji at sunset over the water! for a Japanese Restaurant. This is all your doing....until I started reading your blog, I thought the time for me to aspire to be an artist passed in the early 80's when I decided to take a REAL job, as there was no demand for realism.I retired in '02 and to keep a brush in my hand I started painting childrens rooms, I am a great grandmother after all! Than you inspired and required us to just do it, paint outdoors as if we thought we could do it! I found people to paint with every week, still wrestling with alla prima....plein air but the demands of the work has done amazing things for my mural painting. I am booked out through the fall with commercial work! Today the press came to interview and take pictures of me finishing and it was pretty exciting...I am still driving 400 mi rnd trip to paint with a dedicated outdoor group on the weekends. I told my sister today, the work I have done these last few weeks (landscapes, and full size people etc) give me the confidence to try anything. She said that it was because no matter what I was practiceing the craft every day. Just what you predicted! I still don't like much of what I am doing outside but I keep at it. This is pretty exciting stuff for a 69 yr old 100 lb lady dangling off the top of a twelve ft ladder painting clouds with both hands! Thank you, thank you I have got dreams....so cool! Terry

Philip Koch said...

I'm behind in reading Stape's series on Winslow Homer as I've been up in the Adirondacks painting this week. Have some catching up to do after neglecting my reading duties.

The juxtaposition of the Homers with a W.T. Richards is almost startling, and it really makes Stape's point well. Homer's sense of design gave him an unrivaled simplicity, poetry, and power. What a guy!

Mary Byrom said...

I grew up in New England. I was raised on Homer. My Mother showed me Homer's Maine paintings when I was about 5. She loved his work and told me how great he was. I remember looking at his paintings and marveling over the big powerful men in them who were powerless when confronted by the huge overwhelming sea that crashed, foamed and controlled everything. After Homer all those other guys I saw who painted ocean scenes didn't have a chance. When you posted the Richards next to Homer it hit home. Homer's thinking and choices about making his paintings are what's monumental. What a mind. He grabs you and takes you where he wants you to go in his paintings with visually striking forms, contrasts and abstracts. Of course they make me want to paint highly designed surf and narrative paintings. You can see how Andrew Wyeth was influenced by him. Thanks for all the hard work on these posts Stape.

CM said...

Hello Stape,
Homer is awesome! His seascapes take my breath away. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to go to Prouts Neck and actually paint on the same rocks he must have sat on. What an experience.
Also, thank you again for a wonderful demonstration. We shall never forget it.
Corinne

billspaintingmn said...

The first painting with the red horizon, contrasting the cool silvery spray evokes something I cannot quite explain.
But it touches a note, or recalls a past experience of a feeling I once had.
Rarely, if ever does this happen.
Stape, is it me, or did Homer design that into this piece? And if so, it's at a level beyond anything I've ever studied or read how too.

willek said...

Think those red sky pictures are black white red and yellow?

Durinda Cheek, Director said...

Thanks again Stape, for more info on one of my all time favorites! I first admired his watercolors as a student. After seeing "the real things" in Maine a few years ago, I was more in awe of this man. Now, I am more blown away by his skill in oils and in composition. A good one to study!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Terry:
It sounds like you are working hard and receiving its benefits. I have said I think progress is inevitable if you work hard and study great art.
.............SZtape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip:
Welcome back. Did you get one of those cool chairs?
I am going to write a little more on exactly that tonight.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary:
I was terrified to write about Homer and put it off for a while. But it seems to be going OK. I enjoy hearing from the people who didn't know him, they are all excited at the discovery.
.....................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

CM
Thank you for inviting me. I still laugh about your hugging me upon first meeting, you said you felt like you already knew me from reading the blog. I almost never get hugged, too thorny.
.......................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

bill:
No I don't think it is just you. It is something that Homer designed into the pictures. I feel the same things.
..............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

willek:
I don't think so. Those sort of limited palettes were uncommon then.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Durinda:
Homer is a good one to study and several generations of American painters have.
...................Stape

amerrill said...

Just to be picky - it's Portland not Portsmouth, Maine. But you knew that. Annie