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  • Russ Ramsey

Winslow Homer at Night

For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at some of Winslow Homer’s nightscapes. I am fascinated by nocturnal scenes. They’re still all about the application of light, illuminating the darkness.

Homer, Moonlight, Wood Island Light, 1894


Nightscapes began gaining popularity in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s—especially among American painters. James Whistler, Henry Tanner, and Frederic Remington all painted them.

Homer, The Fountains at Night, World's Columbian Exposition, 1893


Some of the appeal of nightscape painting had to do with the technological advances of electric lighting and photography, which changed how the world captured light and also utilized darkness in new ways.

Homer, Twilight at Leeds, 1876


Martha Tedeschi, director of Harvard Art Museums, said: “One of the things that I think is so successful in this picture… is that it evokes things that Homer could not have possibly painted into the picture, like sound.”

Homer, Summer Night (Buffalo Gals), 1890


Homer was known to grab his supplies and run outside to paint when the lighting conditions were just right. He worked to capture what he saw in real time. The night sky is always changing, so he had to work fast.

Homer, Moonlight, 1874


A rare Homer nightscape that isn’t also a seascape. Homer loved venturing out into the mountains to hunt, fish, hike, and gather ideas to paint. Camp Fire comes from a visit to Keene Valley in 1880, as two fisherman turn in for the night.

Homer, Camp Fire, 1880


This watercolor over graphite is a masterclass in monochromatic expression—blue and black with touches of white. Homer scraped with the opposite end of his brush to give the illusion of dappled light.

Homer, Eastern Point Lighthouse, 1880

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