Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winslow Homer and Watercolor

Winslow Homer was an oil painter, but he was also known for being one of the best watercolor artists of all time. This watercolor, Boys and Kitten, was done on a summer working vacation in Gloucester, Mass. It is one of my favorites. His brushwork was fluid and the colors saturated, no doubt influenced by his career in illustration.
The subject matter of many of his paintings over the summer of 1873, that of children as they played, was one that he only touched on when painting with oils. His watercolors in Gloucester were also different from his previous work, the brush strokes are more free, less finished, with sharp patterns and distinctive light and shadows. This painting in particular almost divides the light from dark in half, with the left side being  mostly light, the right, mostly dark, but the shadow pointing toward the subject matter.
He also started to use white gouache to separate the lights and darks. In fact, he applied opaque color in many of the watercolors of this period, building up from dark to light as if working with oil colors. It's a very interesting technique.

Photo from the book, American Traditions in Watercolor, The Worcester Art Museum Collection

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