Friday, October 24, 2014

Watercolors by Homer: The Color of Light

The Art Institute of Chicago presented Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color
of Light,  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
Offering the most comprehensive exhibition of Homer’s watercolors in decades, Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light was organized by and mounted exclusively at the Art Institute. The exhibition was view February 16–May 10, 2008.

After the Hurricane, Bahamas, 1899

The Watcher, Tynemouth

“A much richer picture of Winslow Homer as a practicing artist emerges from this exhibition,” said Martha Tedeschi, curator of prints and drawings at the Art Institute and
the exhibition’s curator. “ Homer’s watercolors have often been characterized as free, spontaneous images captured outdoors during fishing trips or in moments of leisure. Indeed many of them do have that feeling—which is exhilarating. But what we found as we investigated more closely using a variety of analytical conservation technologies is that he often put a great deal of thought and careful planning into his watercolors, sometimes changing his mind and making radical alterations to the image. And as this exhibition and its catalogue demonstrate, watercolor was the artist’s favorite way to experiment with new ideas about color and light, two of his central preoccupations. In many ways, Homer’s watercolors reveal him at his most modern, most daring, and most passionate moments. They also speak movingly about his love of nature and offer profound insights about humanity’s place in.”

The Rapids, Hudson River, Adirondacks

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 tradition- bound arena of oil painting.

North Woods Club, Adirondacks (The Interrupted Tete-a-Tete)

Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light was arranged in thematic sections, organized around the different sites where the artist worked. These invited 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 told 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 demonstrated 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.

A beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanied 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.