Winslow Homer: The Color of Light – Art Institute of Chicago






The Art Institute of Chicago

Winslow Homer: The Color of Light
on View until May 10, 2008 2008

A groundbreaking exhibition of watercolors by one of America’s most revered artists. Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light presents 130 works that reveal Homer’s astounding mastery of watercolor, exploring how he unlocked the secrets of the medium over a period of more than three
decades.

“The Water Fan”, 1898/99

Winslow Homer. The Water Fan, 1898/99. Watercolor, with blotting and touches of scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough twill-textured, ivory wove paper , 374 x 534 mm. Gift of Dorothy A., John A., Jr., and Christopher Holabird in memory of William and Mary Holabird.

Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

In preparation for this exhibition, curators, conservators, and conservation scientists at the Art Institute spent years closely examining Homer’s watercolor techniques and materials, using the museum’s own collection as a basis for their inquiries. The resulting exhibition, with its accompanying catalogue, provides an intimate look at the artist’s evolving relationship with this flexible and luminous medium. Offering the most comprehensive exhibition of Homer’s watercolors in decades, Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light is organized by and mounted exclusively at the Art Institute. The exhibition will be on until 16–May 10, 2008,in the museum’s Regenstein Hall and Galleries 271–273.

American painter Winslow Homer (1836–1910) created some of the most breathtaking and influential images in the history of the watercolor medium. He was, famously, a man who received almost no formal artistic education. Acknowledged in his own day as America’s most original and independent watercolorist, he had an intuitive relationship with this challenging medium. Between 1873 and 1905, he created nearly 700 watercolors—an astonishing number. A staple of his livelihood, watercolors were quick drying and portable. The medium became his movable classroom, a way for him to learn through experimentation—with color theory, composition, materials, optics, style, subject matter, and technique—far more freely than he could in the more public and traditionbound arena of oil painting.

For to Be a Farmer’s Boy

Winslow Homer. For to Be a Farmer’s Boy, 1887. Transparent and opaque watercolor, with rewetting, blotting, and scraping, heightened with gum glaze, over graphite, on thick, rough-textured ivory wove paper (lower edge trimmed), 355 x 509 mm. Gift of Mrs. George T. Langhorne in memory of Edward Carson Waller.

Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

The Rapids, Hudson River

Winslow Homer. The Rapids, Hudson River, 1894. Transparent watercolor, with traces of opaque watercolor, blotting, and scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough-textured, ivory wove paper, 384 x 546 mm.Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection.

Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light is arranged in thematic sections, organized around the different sites where the artist worked. These invite viewers both to look closely at Homer’s watercolor techniques and also to step back in order to appreciate the way he adapted his light effects and color palette to the unique characteristics of the settings where he worked. In an almost uncanny way, Homer’s watercolors nearly always ring true, vividly capturing the tangible sensations of each environment. A total of 130 watercolors, oils, drawings, and prints from public and private collections throughout the United States tell the story of Homer’s development as a watercolor artist, chronicling his techniques, materials, and his responses to dramatic settings—the rocky, deserted coast of Maine, the lush habitats of the Adirondack Mountains, and mesmerizing vistas in the Caribbean and Florida. The exhibition demonstrates the central role that watercolor played in helping the artist achieve the fresh, immediate, light-filled scenes that have become his most enduring legacy to American art.

The exhibition is the result of a collaboration among curators, researchers, conservators, and conservation scientists, who used the latest analytical technology to examine the Art Institute’s watercolors. The research yields new information about his pigments, his experiments with color theory, and his varied, unconventional use of watercolor. The alteration of his colors over time due to light exposure is also considered, in order to arrive at a new understanding of his original intentions. An interactive Web component will allow visitors to explore this research—as well as learn about cutting-edge
conservation techniques—at their own pace, scrutinizing details under high magnification and learning firsthand about the materials, pigments, and techniques Homer used to achieve his astounding effects

After the Hurricane, Bahamas

Winslow Homer. After the Hurricane, Bahamas, 1899. Transparent watercolor, with touches of opaque watercolor, rewetting, blotting and scraping, over graphite, on moderately thick, moderately textured (twill texture on verso), ivory wove paper, 380 x 543 mm. Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection.

Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

Stowing Sail, Bahamas

Winslow Homer. Stowing Sail, Bahamas, 1903. Watercolor and graphite with touches of scraping on ivory wove paper; 35.5 x 55.4 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection.

Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

A beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanies Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light. Published by the Art Institute in association with Yale University Press, the 228-page volume presents essays written by Tedeschi and by Art Institute paper conservator Kristi Dahm. The catalogue also includes major contributions by Homer specialist Judith Walsh, associate professor of conservation at Buffalo State University, and by exhibition research assistant Karen Huang. The catalogue will be available in February for purchase in the Museum Shop and online at www.artinstituteshop.org.

Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago. Terra Foundation for American Art is the Lead Foundation Sponsor as part of American Art American City, a Chicago celebration of historical American art. Harris is the Lead Corporate Sponsor. Additional support has been generously provided by the Jane Ellen Murray Foundation, the Community Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Norman C. Bobins, and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance. Support for the catalogue has been generously provided by The
Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.

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~ by Stampfli & Turci on April 24, 2008.

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