Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homer's sporting art

images from

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.


Unknown said...

I just really loved this post, and these paintings. Thanks.

Lucy said...

This is a great series on a great American artist. Thanks

willek said...

You can't talk about America without delving into into the realm of hunting and fishing and its popularity from the Civil War through the thirties. That is because of the differences between the new world and the old world concerning the laws of ownership of the wild game once it was caught. In Europe, the game was owned by the landowners, mostly aristocracy, here it was owned by whoever killed or caught it. ( giving rise to a huge trade in wild game for sale at market) Commoners in Europe had to sneak around on the lord's land to hunt for game and were punished if caught. In America, they were able to persue this noble pastime unfettered and themselves felt as priviledged as the nobility of the old country. The sporting pictures of Benson, Ripley, Frost, Pleissner, Eakins, Homer and others celebrate this differnce over and over while extolling the land of plenty for the common man. Moreover, these artists walked the walk. I have no doubt that Homer and Benson rode in those boats on those wild rivers and marshes and every sportsman that sees their pictures knows it. That may explain the generations of men trained as illustrators who you mentioned who likely may never have left the drafting table to see what they were representing.

sandy said...

Love these posts on Homer. One thing I am realizing is part of the enjoyment has been how you have so deftly woven in some of the deep beautiful heritage of our country along with these amazing paintings by Homer. These paintings have been pure pleasure to see. Thanks Stape.

Mary Byrom said...

Just catching up on the last few posts. Awesome! I have walked and painted in the locations of these White Mountain and Adirondack paintings and not only does Homer deliver great paintings - but sometimes I'm on location and it reminds me of the painting. Isn't it usually a painting reminds you of the place not the reverse? Hey, what is going on?
Robert, thanks for the Payne suggestion. I'm dreaming of something with big pictures and many master pieces...

billspaintingmn said...

I surrender! These paintings are
I feel like I went camping! Thanks for introducing me to Winslow Homer, Stape! It's the best thing ever!

barbara b. land of boz said...

Thank you for sharing the works of
Homer. There is such a wonderful
dream like sense about some of
them. It truly does make me want
to be in these places.
More Homer please....I could feast
on his paintings all day.

jeff said...

When I look at Homers work I often think he had the painters equivalent perfect pitch. That is he really nailed the the HVC and you can really see how good he was at this in his watercolors. His values sense and how to use it was(is) amazing.

Deborah Paris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah Paris said...

These and some of his pictures of Homosassa are my favorites (although I dearly love all his work). There are many in this group of works that are more graphic in depicting hunters and fallen prey. They are beautiful and true in every way. There is something so raw and yet completely elegant in Homer that one never tires of it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks.Desert dweller.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hey great contribution. I should do A.B. Frost maybe?

Stapleton Kearns said...

The Americaness of Homer is part of what makes him important.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Since you all seem to like those posts I will try to do more of them.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have a pre nup with my wife. There will be NO CAMPING!

Stapleton Kearns said...

there is more of course.

Stapleton Kearns said...

His values are so strong. What van artist he was.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I actually chose not to include one or two of the PETA horror shows.

T Arthur Smith said...

I see what you're saying with these paintings about the American wild - Homer's style certainly seems new, but remember there was the Hudson River School that predates this by over a hundred years, with similar aims. Church and Bierstadt both traveled widely through the US bringing all sorts of fantastic images back to NYC. It'd be great to have a comparison between these two schools of art.