Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

On the Beach, Tynemouth

Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
On the Beach, Tynemouth
signed and dated 'Winslow Homer 1881' (lower right)
watercolor and pencil on paper
9 ¾ x 13 ¾ in. (24.8 x 34.9 cm.)
Executed in 1881.
Mrs. Henry L. Higginson, Boston, Massachusetts.
Doll & Richards, Boston, Massachusetts, 1920.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, 1924.
Joseph A. Skinner, 1924.
William H. Skinner II, Holyoke, Massachusetts, son of the above, by bequest from the above.
Steven Straw Company, Inc., Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, 1979.
Meredith Long Gallery, Houston, Texas, 1981.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, circa 1981.
L. Goodrich, A.B. Gerdts, Record of Works by Winslow Homer: 1881 through 1882, vol. IV.1, New York, 2012, pp. 56-57, no. 1053, illustrated.
(Probably) Boston, Massachusetts, J. Eastman Chase, February 1882.
Boston, Massachusetts, Doll & Richards, Paintings and Water Colors by Winslow Homer, January 25-February 6, 1923, no. 10.

Lot Essay

In the spring of 1881, Winslow Homer made his second visit abroad, spending two seasons near Tynemouth, England, in the small fishing village of Cullercoats on the North Sea. During this time, Homer’s style underwent a significant transformation, employing rounder modeling and grayer tones to reflect the harsh winds and waves of the British coastline. As demonstrated in On the Beach, Tynemouth, Homer used this change in his watercolor technique to showcase his admiration for how the local fisherwomen weathered their surroundings.

Indeed, Homer was exceedingly impressed by the demeanor of the active women he encountered in the small villages on England's northeast coast. Helen Cooper explains, “No one could spend any time in the village without becoming aware of the special qualities of the fishermen and women. Ruggedly independent, they needed both endurance and courage, for they had to bear with and battle the elements for sustenance....They were, as one writer put it, ‘the great feature of the place’...’’ (H. Cooper, Winslow Homer Watercolors, Washington, D.C., 1986, pp. 116-17) Working almost exclusively in watercolor, Homer turned to these women for his subjects, recording their habits and routines more than anything else. It was largely the fisherwomen, whose robust physical presence concisely represented the strong will of the town, who drove the American artist to produce incredibly poignant and compelling works during his time abroad.

On the Beach, Tynemouth presents a group of fisherwomen standing with their young children in front of a row of fishing boats. The artist has limited the overall palette to cool grays--seen in the sandy foreground, the rocky outcropping at left, and especially in the brooding sky. He has enlivened this subtle coloring with brilliant touches of deep blue—evident in the girl's dresses and the beached boats—and dramatic punches of vibrant red within the primary figures’ headscarves, shawls and stockings. Although the women in On the Beach, Tynemouth bear a strong resemblance to each other, Homer particularly illustrates each woman individually, with varying clothing, posturing and stance to reflect his admiration. The entire composition is unified by Homer's careful observation of light and atmosphere. The artist has modulated the washes in the sky to suggest a clearing storm, with a hint of blue along the horizon at right. In doing so, Homer has delineated the women's solid vertical forms from the soft sand and stormy sky, as they look out across the water into the distance. Behind them a portion of the fleet is laid up along the water's edge, attended to by other members of the fishing community. Further in the distance a fishing boat plies the coast, its sail silhouetted on the horizon.

More from American Art

View All
View All