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.