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: The Conch Divers by Winslow Homer


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Institute has recently acquired from the Dunwoody Fund an important watercolor by Winslow Homer (1836-1910). During the second half of the XIX century, America produced no painter more national in style and character than Winslow Homer, whose intensely personal and intensely American art has secured for him a distinguished position in the history of painting. Winslow Homer reflects the heightened national consciousness which followed the Civil War. To a greater extent than any of his contemporaries, even than Inness, Hunt, La Farge and Fuller, Homer gave expression to American life and character. Unlike his predecessors, his art was not dependent upon European traditions. Practically self-taught, Winslow Homer achieved an individuality of expression which, like his subjects, was direct, elemental and forcible.“It is Winslow Homer’s distinction that he was the first American painter to use an American idiom,” wrote William Howe Downes. “Not only his subjects, but his manner of treating them; not only his motives, but his point of view; not only his material, but the style and sentiment in which he clothes it, have the stamp of Americanism indelibly impressed upon them.”It is rare that an artist uses with equal success both watercolor and oil. With Winslow Homer one hardly knows which to admire more, his oil paintings or his watercolors. Certainly in the latter he achieved even greater technical distinction than in the former. His watercolors are painted with a directness of method, a certainty of values and drawing, that one may truly say has never been surpassed. In the winter of 1885-1886, Homer visited the Bahama Islands, where a new world of color was opened to his eyes. The watercolors which he made during this and subsequent voyages are among the finest things he ever did. They show to what singular degree he was endowed “with the faculty of seeing justly and exactly the thing as it exists in nature and of setting it forth without extenuation and without prejudice, color and light, as well as line and mass.”The watercolor acquired by the Institute, formerly in the collection of Russell Sturgis, is called The Conch Divers. The [men] on the deck of a sloop are watching the reappearance of a diver who has just come up alongside with some shells in his hand. The island of New Providence with its palms is seen in the distance at the right. The composition is admirable; the figures are drawn with great power. The finest watercolors by Winslow Homer come so rarely on the market that the Institute may well be congratulated on the acquisition of so important an example. Referenced Work of Art
  1. The Conch Divers, by Winslow Homer
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Source: Joseph Breck, "The Conch Divers by Winslow Homer," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 4, no. 9 (September, 1915): 85-86.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009