Fishing Boats, Key West from Artisoo.com

Few of Homer’s watercolors rival this one for its effects of shimmering sunlight and steamy atmosphere, achieved through the rapid application of wet-on-wet surfaces, the broad and dexterous exploitation of the white paper reserve, and the judicious sponging of wet pigment, especially in the shadows, reflecting light off the water. This painting is also exceptional for the number and visibility of its pencil marks, not only to indicate some of the boats’ rigging (and betraying the sentiments of a sloop in the background that the artist edited out), but also to enliven the rustle of the sailcloth lifted by a phantom breeze. By contrast, Homer, in masterly fashion, merely daubed in the figures freehand, sacrificing nothing of their form and weight—they even seem to speak.

Winslow Homer, perhaps best known as a son of New England, growing up in Boston as a child and a young adult, then spending his twilight years on the Maine coast at Prout’s Neck, actually had some strong ties to the Hudson River valley, painting in New York City, Hurley, NY, where he painted Snap the Whip, and in 1876 he painted a large but lost canvas of Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills

It wasn’t until 1873 that Winslow Homer began to paint watercolors as a medium equal in importance as oil. His style in watercolors was unique for the spontaneity shown. Winslow Homer can be considerate the watercolor father of the modern watercolor painting. Living two years in a fishing village, fishermen and fisherwomen work in particular was inspiration for great artworks by Homer. During his last years he lived in Proust Neck, (Scarborough, Maine) but also due to the cold winters, he also lived during those winters in Florida, Cuba and Bahamas where he painted some of his best watercolors.

Beginning in 1877, a year or two after the end of Winslow Homer’s attempted courtship of Helena Decay Gilder, the artist escaped the disappointment of his recent past when he visited the farm of his patron, Lawson Valentine, in Mountainville, New York.

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