Considered one of the greatest 19th century American painters, Winslow Homer was born in Boston, Mass. in 1836 and when he was six, his family moved to Cambridge. He enjoyed spending much of his time in the outdoors while growing up, and his family encouraged him to pursue an artistic career. By age 19, Homer managed to get work as an apprentice for a Boston lithographic firm, after he’d only had a brief amount of training at the National Academy of Design. When he was 22 he left his home for New York, where he set up a studio and worked in to 1880.

Before painting he did a lot of work as an illustrator, much of which was published in Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War and for several years following. He began to paint by 1963, and within a couple of years he’d developed an excellent group of paintings showing brawls, prisoners, and soldiers in their camps. Following a trip to Paris in 1867, he began to produce numerous works depicting rural families in the midst of undergoing significant changes with urbanization. Much of his work at this time reflected his concerns for the nation and an adoration for post-war nostalgia. The women Homer usually created were shown enjoying leisure time, horseback riding and relaxing by the sea, or they were shown working in cotton fields or teaching school. The children he portrayed were shown as having fun, enjoying their youth; playing in the sun or sailing boats.

From 1881 to 1882, Homer spent time in Cullercoats, a fishing village on the coast of England, and while here developed his watercolor technique. It was also on this visit that he began to paint with a sea theme, one he would continue for the rest of his career. His painting subjects altered from women and children to fishermen hard at work. One of his most prominent pieces during this period is “Fog Warning,” held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

During the time he resided in New York, Homer visited his family frequently and also spent several summers in Gloucester. In 1883 he returned to New England permanently, settling in Prout’s Neck, Maine. By 1890, Homer concentrated on the sea itself in several paintings, which became extremely successful and are considered some of his best work. His last works had the ability to provoke a viewer into realizing not only the beauty and the danger of nature, but the gravity of their own mortality. Some of his well-known works of this period are “Cannon Rock,” shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and “Northeaster,” available for viewing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Winslow Homer never married and led a fairly reclusive life. He passed away in 1910.

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