About the Artist
Beginning with the Civil War and throughout his career, Winslow Homer (1836–1910) insightfully recorded the sweeping panorama of American life. Homer’s dynamic compositions and strong sense of design, color, and light inflected his subjects with a psychological truthfulness that was unprecedented in American art and introduced a new realism into what had been an overly sentimental tradition of genre painting. While quintessentially American, his work also paralleled such developments in European art as impressionism and embodied universal themes that transcended national concerns.
This poster is a reproduction of Winslow Homer's Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) (1873–1876).
The sea, which would dominate Homer’s late work, began to assume a role in his paintings as early as 1873, when he summered at Gloucester, Massachusetts. Here, a catboat bearing the name Gloucester turns toward home in late afternoon, the day’s catch of fish stowed in its cockpit. A brisk breeze raises whitecaps, fills the mainsail, and heels the boat over until its port rail is awash. Counteracting the wind, a fisherman and three boys throw their weight to the starboard side. On the horizon, a gull circles over a two-masted schooner.
The oil painting, exhibited to popular and critical acclaim in 1876, began with a watercolor study probably done on the spot three years earlier in Gloucester harbor. Comparison with the initial watercolor and laboratory examination of this final oil reveal many changes in design. Originally, the tiller was guided by the old man instead of a boy. A fourth boy once sat in the place now occupied by the anchor, a symbol of hope. Because in 1876 the United States was celebrating its centennial as a nation, Homer may have made these alterations to suggest the promise of America’s youth. Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) has become one of the best-known and most beloved artistic images of life in 19th-century America.
- 20.25 x 31 inches (image), 22 x 31 inches (poster)