Winslow Homer, American Artist: His World and His Work

By Albert Ten Eyck Gardner | Go to book overview

PREFACE

IN 1959 the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of the work of the famous American painter Winslow Homer. This widely heralded exhibition was organized by John Walker, Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and was shown there before coming to New York. In this highly rewarding co-operation between the two museums the Metropolitan Museum provided the introductory essay for the Winslow Homer Exhibition Catalogue. This introduction was written by Albert TenEyck Gardner, Associate Curator of American Art. The essay he composed was immediately recognized by many authorities on American Art as an important and significant contribution to the critical writings on Winslow Homer. Mr. Gardner has now expanded this work by the addition of much new material, and the result is the admirable text for this handsomely illustrated volume. This book provides in words and pictures, for the layman as well as for the student of American art and American history, a new view of the life and work of one of our greatest artists by placing him and his work in relation to the main stream of American cultural history.

In the past the Metropolitan Museum has held a number of exhibitions of the work of Winslow Homer. In fact the first really large one-man show of Homer's work was organized by this museum in 1911, just fifty years ago, as a memorial to the artist. This exhibition made available to our visitors for the first time the superb group of watercolors that Homer had set aside for the Metropolitan Museum as a collection that would represent his best work. For a number of years the museum had been negotiating with the artist for the purchase of these pictures, and though Homer refused to part with them he faithfully held them in reserve and they were subsequently purchased by the Metropolitan from his estate. In 1909 Homer wrote to Bryson Burroughs, then Assistant Curator of Paintings:

"The watercolors that you refer to are still hanging on my wall -- I think of you and the Museum when I happen to look at them and I never forget that I have promised to submit them to you before offering them to any other party. . . I am not in any hurry and I am sure to notify you.

Respectfully, Winslow Homer."

The Metropolitan Museum has acquired over the years a really impressive collection of pictures by Homer. While some have been bought, many have been the gifts of generous friends of the Museum. The artist holds such a high place in the history of American art and in the esteem of the general public that the Museum believes he merits an unusually full representation in our collections. The Metropolitan is now able to show the student important examples of every phase of his work. Winslow Homer stands in the small select group of the very best American artists of his time, and his paintings have always been prized by museums and collectors. Homer's famous painting -- perhaps his most famous, The Gulf Stream -- has been on exhibition in our galleries ever since it was purchased in 1906. Today this haunting picture still has a powerful attraction in spite of strong

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