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Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910)
The United States has produced its own breed of painters true to the vision and character of the nation. In the nineteenth century, one of its greatest was Winslow Homer. Classified as an American naturalist painter, Winslow was a self-taught artist who became most famous for his views of the American landscape and most noteably his seascapes off of the Maine coastline where he lived during the latter part of his life.
Homer was born on February 24, 1836. As a young man, he received his start as an illustrator of magazines. He became a regular contributor of engraving drawings to Harper's Weekly, one of the nation's most popular magazines of the time. After spending a year in Paris in 1856, he returned to the U.S. with a better understanding of the of light in impressionism although he was not really influenced by French art. In the early 1860's, Homer made several trips to the front lines of some Civil War battles in Virginia. It was from sketches he made there that he created his first important oil work, Prisoners from the Front (1866, Metropolitan Museum, New York City).
In 1873, after working in oils for almost twenty years, Homer began also to paint using watercolors. For the rest of his life, this became as important to him as his use of oil and he created many of each. In the mid point of his career, his subjects usually depicted the rural farm scenes of Northeast America, children at play, and fashionable resort views featuring mostly well dressed women.
After living in a fishing village in England in 1881 and 1882, Homer began what was to become the work he was best known for, his seascapes. Once returning to America, he spent most of his remaining winters in Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba, and the rest of his time in Prout's Neck on the coast of Maine. His basic theme in much of this later work was consistently the struggle between man and nature. One of his most famous masterpieces demonstrating this struggle was Eight Bells (1886, Addison Gallery, Andover, Massachusetts). He died in Prout's Neck in 1910.
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