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Discussion – Illustrator to Artist: Winslow Homer and the Public
November 3 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
“Illustrator to Artist: Winslow Homer and the Public” with American art scholar Wilford Scott.
Winslow Homer (1836–1910) is regarded by many as the preeminent American painter of the 19th century, well known for his dynamic renditions of scenes from the coast. His rise to prominence was greatly due to his work as an illustrator for the then-booming pictorial press—an outlet that brought Homer’s imagery into hundreds of thousands of homes on a nearly weekly basis. During his tenure with such publications as Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and Harper’s Weekly, Homer created more than 200 illustrations. His career as an illustrator began in 1857 and ended in 1875, at which point he dedicated himself solely to painting. Homer’s images were admired early for their engaging style and dynamic composition.
Following a trip to Europe, illustrated in the double-spread impression Homeward Bound (1867), Homer’s compositions for the press became noticeably more developed and sophisticated. Impressions including Gloucester Harbor (1873), Sea Side Sketches—A Clam-Bake (1873), and Seesaw-Gloucester, Massachusetts (1874) reflect a mature understanding and relationship to the engraving process. Though he did not participate in the printing of the block, Homer did have approval over the interpretation of his imagery and only used specific engravers for his impressions, maintaining his involvement in the process.
The prints on display are selected from the original newspaper editions. The pictorial press enlisted an army of artists, engravers, platemakers, and printers to publish these works. While it is the draftsmen we focus on, the unnamed craftsmen who engraved and printed these images deserve recognition for bringing these mass-produced publications into the homes of 19th-century families.