One hundred and eighty five

The Turtle Pond

1898 by Winslow Homer
Brooklyn Museum of Art

Beginning as an illustrator, and only that by accident, Homer became one of the most prominent painters of the late nineteenth-century. Largely self-taught, his transition from illustrator to painter was one adjoined to discovery and experimentation; fuelled by subject, his style developed into something painterly, expressive,  and innovative, breaking free of the constrictive lines of his engravings or drawings. Though he painted in oils, his watercolours are highly acclaimed stylistically, possessing a fluidity and freedom that broke free of traditional constraints. In The Turtle Pond Homer’s clouds mirror the sea, not just in colour as usual, but in semblance: both move with a large sweeping motion, encompassing of wind and space; it is atmosphere being captured rather than detail. Substance is literally awash with paint; great swathes of intense but translucent green and deep blue materialise the sea, with an equally widely brushed surface capturing the wood, though in pale, washed out and sun bleached colours. This free and simple composition then holds its human detail acutely, not distracting but carrying of the two figures that stand in its waters. Their dark, tanned skin is juxtaposed by the brilliance of the scene that surrounds them, and as the water captures the first man’s reflection the colours of this painting’s spectrum are beautifully blended. Overall it is a tumult of atmosphere in colour and style, a happy and welcome diversion from contemporary paintings concentration on detail; perhaps it took an illustrator, one who had only concentrated on such things, to leave them behind.

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Filed under Nineteenth-Century

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