WINSLOW HOMER (1836-1910)
WINSLOW HOMER (1836-1910)
WINSLOW HOMER (1836-1910)
WINSLOW HOMER (1836-1910)
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WINSLOW HOMER (1836-1910)

Fallen Tree with Minks

WINSLOW HOMER (1836-1910)
Fallen Tree with Minks
signed with initials and dated 'W.H. 1874.' (lower left)
watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper
9 3/4 x 13 3/4 in. (24.7 x 34.9 cm.)
Executed in 1874.
Francis Bartlett, Boston, Massachusetts.
Herbert M. Sears, Boston, Massachusetts, son-in-law of the above, by bequest, 1914.
Elizabeth Sears Warren, Prides Crossing, Massachusetts, daughter of the above, by 1940.
Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 17 October 1942, no. 138, sold by the above.
Millicent Rogers, Washington, D.C., acquired from the above.
Private collection, New York, by descent from the above, 1953.
By descent to the present owner.
D. Tatham, Winslow Homer in the Adirondacks, Syracuse, New York, 1996, p. 53 (as Lake Shore).
N. Cikovsky, Jr., F. Kelly, Winslow Homer, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1996, p. 128, fig. 101, illustrated (as Landscape).
C.M. Welsh, Adirondack Prints and Printmakers: The Call of the Wild, Syracuse, New York, 1998, p. 195n9 (as Lake Shore).
L. Goodrich, A.B. Gerdts, Record of Works by Winslow Homer: 1867 through 1876, vol. II, New York, 2014, p. 303, no. 522, illustrated.
Blue Mountain Lake, New York, Adirondack Museum, Winslow Homer in the Adirondacks, August 15-September 15, 1959, p. 37, no. 9.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

The Adirondacks were Winslow Homer’s most persistent place of inspiration, drawing the artist to visit over twenty times between 1870 and 1910. His watercolors inspired by the area are among the masterworks of Homer’s career, marking an important stage in his development as a painter. As epitomized by Fallen Tree with Minks, Homer’s skilled and unique use of color and light in his iconic Adirondack watercolors capture the artist’s enduring fascination with the Upstate New York landscape.

An avid fisherman, Homer was among the first wave of American sportsmen and tourists to focus on exploring the fauna and flora of the Adirondacks. Over his four decades of visits, he primarily stayed at a remote clearing in the town of Minerva in Essex County along Mink Pond. The area was known as Baker’s clearing— after Reverend Thomas Baker, who built a log house for boarders around 1860. In 1886, a private hunting and fishing retreat called the North Woods Club would be founded there with both Homer and his brother Charles as charter members. Homer visited the Adirondacks twice in 1874, the same year he executed the present work. He spent May and June at Baker’s and then visited Keene Valley, about thirty miles to the north, in September and October before likely making a late-season return to Baker’s.

Fallen Tree with Minks was painted at Baker’s clearing in Minerva, depicting a toppled tree amidst a burnt forest tract along Mink Pond. David Tatham writes of the present work, along with the related figural watercolor Waiting for a Bite (1874, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts), “Homer placed two dark-coated mink near the fallen tree…perhaps to suggest that Mink Pond was well-named…There can be little doubt that he painted the two watercolors in open air at the site.” (Winslow Homer in the Adirondacks, Syracuse, New York, 2004, p. 53) Combining the striking burned-over horizon of the present work with the fishing boys in the second watercolor, Homer then developed his oil painting Waiting for a Bite (1874, Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida), which he completed in his New York studio. Homer also adapted the Waiting for a Bite composition as an engraving for Harper’s Weekly.

In the present work, Homer’s masterful play with light is evident in the rippling waters of the pond, which transform the stark vertical tree trunks into a rhythmic pattern of undulating reflections interrupted by horizontal dashes of grays and bright blues. The cooler tones of water and cloudy sky surround the band of warmer golden and orange ground, which draws the viewer’s eye to the center of the composition. While the trees themselves are long dead, the area nonetheless shows signs of the resilience of life, including visible cues like the birds in the sky and playful minks along the shore but also the teeming wildlife beneath the water’s surface—the primary draw of the area for fishermen like Homer.

A gem among his acclaimed Adirondacks watercolor oeuvre, Fallen Tree with Minks exemplifies Homer’s deeply personal and direct reaction to the natural landscape at his favorite leisure destination. Homer once proclaimed to a friend, "You will see, in the future I will live by my watercolors," and indeed, since their execution, the artist's watercolors have ranked among the greatest and most enduring achievements in American art. Helen Cooper writes, "Executed over a period of more than thirty years, between 1873 and 1905, these works are unsurpassed for their direct statement, luminosity, and economy of means…The liquid pigment called forth in him a private and poetic vision that otherwise found no place in his art." (as quoted in H. Cooper, Winslow Homer Watercolors, New Haven, 1986, p. 16).

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