Winslow Homer: Force of Nature
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was undoubtedly one of the greatest American artists of his generation, and yet he remains almost completely unknown in the United Kingdom - even though he lived here for more than a year. In part this is because his success on the other side of the Atlantic meant that the Americans bought all the work: there is not a single example in a British public collection.
The National Gallery's exhibition, which opened on 10 September, therefore comes as a welcome introduction to his work. Rooted in the close observation of contemporary society, a skill he developed as an illustrator for popular magazines even before he set out to become an artist, his astute insights continued to be seen as 'the best chronicler of the [American civil] war', according to the New York Tribune. As a painter, the war and its aftermath - a period known as 'Reconstruction' - were his early subjects, and this included the fate of Black Americans after the abolition of slavery. For a while his interest in the lives of the middle classes, which he had developed during his time as an illustrator, continued in parallel, but soon his sympathies shifted from the leisure of the moneyed classes to focus on the lives of working heroes, men and women who, as often as not, were in a constant struggle with natural forces - the fishermen and their wives among whom he settled for a while in the North East of England, and their equivalents on the Atlantic Coast of America.
This talk will be a comprehensive introduction to the National Gallery's exhibition. As well as looking at Homer's early influences, it will also consider the impact of his overriding subject matter - mankind and the natural world - which can almost seem more relevant now than it would have done over a century ago.
Please remember, I do not record my talks