Winslow Homer

Perils of the Sea


After a fortnight of poking around the surrealist exhibitions, it is a relief to come up to the surface for a little fresh air. That is what makes the two Winslow Homer shows so timely. Homer has the bite of the northeast wind and the rejuvenating effect of the sunlight after a long, wet blow; what was vague and slippery and unformed was outside his province. Devil take the underworld, with its murky vaporings, its sadistic jokes, and its carefully arranged posturings. Here, in the keen-eyed American Homer who painted, is the eternal surface pattern of things that one finds in the blind Greek who sang. The wind, the waves, the forest, the agile bodies of tough men and shapely women—these are Homer’s realities.

[…] None of the generalizations about Homer has been inclusive enough. People have said he was a naturalist and an illustrator; he turns out to be a bold designer and a tender poet, one of those awkward seabirds that must run long on the ground before they take to the air, but seem to fly the more gracefully once they are on firm wing. People have said Homer was a simple, healthy extrovert, but it is given to few extroverts to have such a capacity for living silently and within themselves, absorbing so fully, brooding so deeply, giving out again so richly. I would not say that Homer is a bigger artist than Ryder or Eakins. But his eye was as steady and keen as Eakins’ and his insight was as calm and unfaltering as Ryder’s; and in his best work, if not in his still most popular work, he is well on their level.

Perils of the Sea

Collection: The Cleveland Museum of Art (Dudley P. Allen Fund 1924.545)
Text: Lewis Mumford, The Art Galleries, 1936–1937

Publié: Janvier 2017
Catégorie: Illustration