Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

Two Schooners

Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
Two Schooners
signed and dated 'Homer 1880' lower left
graphite and white gouache on paper
4 7/8 x 8 5/8in. (12.3 x 21.9cm.) (sight)
Charles Savage Homer, the artist's brother
Steven Juvelis, Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1961
Charles C. Cunningham, Sr., Brookline, Massachusetts
Vose Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts

Lot Essay

The summer of 1880 was one of great experimentation and productivity for Winslow Homer. He lived in almost complete solitude in a lighthouse on Ten Pound Island in the center of Gloucester Harbor. He spent the summer painting the harbor and the view of the town of Gloucester beyond. The boats which populated Gloucester Harbor held a particular interest for Homer.

Two Schooners is one of many works that Homer produced that summer. By 1880 Homer had given up illustration and devoted much of his attention to depicting light and atmosphere in his paintings. Using just graphite and white wash, Homer has given the viewer a sense of his surroundings and the feeling of the Atlantic coast that so greatly affected him.

Homer's attention to detail in Two Schooners suggests his fondness for the fishing boats that would become the focus of several of his later masterworks, including The Fog Warning of 1885 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts) and The Herring Net of 1885 (Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois). D.S. Atkinson has written:

In the drawings and watercolors of 1880, Homer not only acknowledged the importance of the schooner to the fishing port but understood how its beautiful form could be emblematic of this summer's compositions. Homer took such care in his
representations that it is clear he is often delineating the
architecture of a specific ship rather than its generic type.
With his keen powers of observation, Homer became successor to
Fitz Hugh Lane, who had accurately depicted ships in the harbor during the 1850s and sixties. (Winslow Homer in Gloucester, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, 1990, p. 51)

Both the subjects and techniques used by Homer in his watercolors of 1880 came under attack by the critics. But while many wrote of the "two-dimensional" and "sketchy" quality of his works, others were able to recognize Homer's skilled handling of his medium in creating simple, yet strong compositions.

This work will be included in the forthcoming Spanierman Gallery/CUNY/Goodrich/Whitney catalogue raisonné of the works of Winslow Homer.