Winslow Homer, American Artist: His World and His Work

By Albert Ten Eyck Gardner | Go to book overview

reflection of this tough, resiliant, and lively individual character that lights his work with its unique quality and its air of contemporaneity.

In looking at Homer's pictures it is often valuable to recall in imagination the work of some of the other American painters of the late nineteenth century and to contrast them, in our mind's eye, with Homer's paintings. It is only in this way that one can fully realize just how much he rose above most of them and how far aside from some of the fashionable currents in the American art world he stood as an independent Yankee. It seems that even some of the so-called "big names" of the Nineties cannot now stand close comparison with Homer. And of these big names perhaps the very biggest in American art at that time would be James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Perhaps time has been unusually cruel to Mr. Whistler in demonstrating inexorably how very wide the gulf can be between the happy accidents of the inspired artistic dilettante and the solid, controlled mastery of the professional painter. Many another popular artist of the time can now be thought of only as one of the almost- forgotten extras, the spear carriers who flash momentarily in the background of the grand opera of art history. Their pictures illustrate old-fashioned attitudes of mind toward life and art; age makes them seem merely antiquated without giving them grace or dignity. Thus it is with something like surprise that we realize that it is now more than a hundred years since Homer stood, as a young man of twenty-one, upon the threshold of his career with all his triumphs lying dormant in the unknown future, awaiting his touch to bring them to life.

Homer's reputation as one of the most important American artists of his time has never really suffered any perceptable decline, and the great esteem in which he was held in his later life remained

Brooklyn Museum SHOOTING THE RAPIDS

-18-

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