Winslow Homer was an American Realist movement painter of the nineteenth century. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in February of 1836, the son of a middle-class merchant family. He was apprenticed to lithographer John Bufford where he received his first formal experience in the art world. There he became proficient at many elements of drawing and design, as well as portraiture, though he hated the atmosphere of working in a lithographer’s business.
Initially in his own professional career in art, Homer worked as an illustrator for children’s books and popular magazines of the age like Harper’s Weekly and also did freelance work for other clients. The work was sometimes not credited to him by name but these early versions of Winslow Homer artwork were often praised for their technical accuracy and good “eye” of their anonymous artist.
Shortly after beginning his professional painting career, Homer expanded the creations of his drawings by traveling to the front lines of the American Civil War where he drew objective records of the history being made in front of his eyes.
The paintings of Winslow Homer were affected greatly by his travels to Europe where he gained exposure to the work of the Impressionists, seen in his use of (and emphasis on) outdoor light as well as the great pigmentation of his work, though he never admitted the Impressionists as a direct influence to his own work. The characteristic of Winslow Homer paintings changed with the evolution of his art work. He is noted for creating one of the most objective representations of the African American existence in the United States at the time and also creating representatives of country life on a more general scale.
One of the other consistent qualities in the oil paintings of Winslow Homer was his expanding embracement of marine subjects, particularly in relation to man which were carried out in many light-filled scenes of boats and figures in opposition to great expanses of water.
One of the most important aspects of the paintings of Winslow Homer in the eyes of many art critics is that he creates scenes of landscape through a simplification of the scene to the key major elements, a skill which he derived from his experience with illustration prior to moving to painting. The result of this type of painting is a cleaner aesthetic that makes the artwork of Winslow Homer fresh in the eyes of many viewers while still portraying the complex emotions that paintings can provoke.
Toward the end of his career, Winslow began to experiment with water color paintings in addition to the oil paintings which he had been producing at a slow, yet steady rate of approximately two paintings per year.
Some of the most significant works of Winslow Homer are: Eight Bells, The Fog Warning, Breezing Up, Snap the Whip, Boy Fishing, Gulf Stream, Gloucester Harbor, Three Boys in a Dory, Waterfall in the Adironacks, Waiting for the Start, and the unfinished Shoot the Rapids..