By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
---- — Described by many art historians as perhaps the most important American painter of the 19th century, Winslow Homer was noted for rebelling against provincialism and using his skill with his brush to bring a fresh interpretation to nature and humanity.
Unlike some artists of his day, Homer gained wide popularity in his own lifetime, but was described by those who knew him as a shy man.
His art is what apparently mattered most to him, and this art will be featured in an exhibit of the artist’s paintings at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown this summer.
“Winslow Homer; The Nature and Rhythm of Life” was developed by the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie, which has one of the most significant collections of Homer’s paintings in the world. The Fenimore exhibit will run from June 6 to Aug. 24.
Featuring 23 of Homer’s works, the exhibit chronicles the painter’s career. It will include one of his masterpieces, the striking painting of a scene at Prout’s Neck, Maine, titled “Watching the Breakers: A High Sea.”
“You can see Homer’s entire career unfold here,” said Paul S. D’Ambrosio, president and CEO of the Fenimore.
A Boston native and self-taught artist, Homer, born in 1836, began his career as an illustrator for such magazines as Harper’s Weekly, getting assignments that allowed him to mingle with Union troops fighting the Civil War. He learned new techniques after traveling to Paris in 1867. Though he was a contemporary of impressionists, his approach to the canvas has been described as more evocative of Manet than Monet.
After leaving France, Homer experimented more with light and color. His subsequent addresses included Gloucester, Ma., Prout’s Neck, Maine, and three coastal villages in England. He would also turn out paintings in the Adirondacks, Canada, Florida and the Caribbean before dying in 1910 at the age of 74.
The exhibit will feature 21 works from the Arkell Museum, as well as one on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and one from an unidentified private collector. Many of the paintings were acquired by Bartlett Arkell, the founder of Beech-Nut Packing Co.
The exhibit, which will move to the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie in September, was organized with the assistance of a $74,000 grant from the state Regional Economic Develoment Council, funding that was awarded based on the program’s potential to propel tourism.
That funding is also being used to produce an accompanying catalog that D’Ambrosio said will provide new information on Homer.
An examination of his works at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Massachusetts found inscriptions, marks and brush strokes that D’Ambrosio said will encourage Homer’s admirers to look at him in a new way. The catalog, which will provide the history of each work, will be available when the exhibit opens at the Fenimore.