images from artrenewal.org
From the mid 1870's onward Homer begins to paint sporting art, often on trips to the Adirondacks but also in the White Mountains. This was the beginning of an new view in America of the great wilderness that still covered so much of the country. What had only a generation before been viewed as a desert, inhospitable and dangerous, began to be seen as a restorer of the spirit. The rich began building "Adirondack" style cottages in the wilderness and "rusticators began to go to the great woods for recreation. This was the beginning of a movement that championed hunting, fishing and camping as an antidote for the increasingly urban life and builder of moral strength in a society corrupted by being out of touch with the natural world. Our ideas of living in concert with nature rather than stalking its citizens was to develop later.
Homer painted many pictures of the guides and woodsmen who staffed the great woods, he was later , at Prouts Neck, more likely to spend his time in the company of woodsman and fisherman than with the society types who would buy his art.
These pictures are taken from the span of his career and don't comprise a period of his painting but a theme he was to return to over and over for most of his life. Many of the artists of this generation and the next were avid sportsmen, hunters and fisherman. Metcalf, Benson and others spent their vacations hunting ducks and fishing at remote locations, sometimes way up into Canada.
Notice the clean and beautiful color in these watercolors. He makes it look so simple, but an army of later sportsman artists working for a tremendous array of men's magazines featuring sporting themes on their covers, mined these images without ever equaling them. Homers sure design sense takes these pictures to a level above merely sporting illustration.