Juicy Couture Outlet UK cheap rayban wayfarer
Carnegie Museum of Art Carnegie Museum of Art

Search the Collection

The Wreck

Winslow Homer (American, 02/24/1836–09/29/1910)

1896

Medium oil on canvas Measurements H: 30 3/8 x W: 48 5/16 in. (77.15 x 122.71 cm) Credit Purchase Accession Number 96.1 Location Gallery 6, Scaife Galleries

Narrative

Winslow Homer can justifiably be considered the most distinguished American Realist of the nineteenth century. He is virtually alone among the artists of his generation in having been admired through every decade of the twentieth century. He continues to be remembered for the same large late paintings that brought him fame in his lifetime. These powerful canvases often present nature as detached or subtly hostile. Homer himself is frequently described in much the same terms: an aloof figure who guarded his privacy. The most populated of Homer's late works, The Wreck is one of his last and most dramatic interpretations of a rescue at sea, a theme he introduced into his painting in the 1880s. The source of this painting was a shipwreck that Homer witnessed in 1896 off Higgins Beach at Prout's Neck, Maine, near his friend Charles Jordan's farm. He made a quick thumbnail sketch of the lifeboat crew, which he enclosed in a letter to his brother Charles. At the same time, he began a painting from the incident. The Wreck is a catalogue of thematic elements that Homer had used in previous depictions of rescues at sea. Here, a lifeboat is being pulled in great haste by a crew of seamen across a high dune to the ocean's edge. Beyond the crest of the dune a lifeline has been set up. Several men and women look on, silhouetted against the sky, their clothing blowing in the wind. Except for one red scarf in the background, the coloring is restricted to shades of gray, tinted slightly with green and buff in the dunes and blue in the sea and sky. Homer sent The Wreck to the first "Carnegie International" in 1896. It won the Chronological Medal and a purchase prize of five thousand dollars. This award, unmatched by Carnegie Institute in subsequent years, was one of the most lucrative prizes bestowed upon any American artist of the time and was the highest price Homer received for a single work.

Artist Bio

As a child, Winslow Homer was encouraged in art by his mother, a talented watercolor painter who sent her work to professional exhibitions. Otherwise, he was essentially self-taught. He never graduated from high school, but worked as an apprentice in a lithography firm in Boston and then supported himself as a commercial artist in New York. In the 1860s he became one of the most popular American illustrators, producing designs for Harper's Weekly and other magazines that presented an optimistic picture of American rural life. He began to make paintings in 1862, but it was not until 1874 that Homer largely abandoned illustration and began to support himself chiefly by selling his oils and watercolors.

In 1881 Homer left the United States to work for two years in England, where he settled in the tiny fishing village of Cullercoats on the eastern coast. This period has generally been viewed as the turning point in his career, for it is when he first began to deal with marine subjects and to express a new seriousness of mood. On his return to the United States Homer settled not in New York but at the remote village of Prout's Neck on the coast of Maine, where he spent the remainder of his career. From this point on, Homer saw little of artists in New York and grew increasingly eccentric and reclusive. Prolific in watercolor, Homer created oil paintings slowly, seldom completing more than two or three in a year and producing none at all between 1887 and 1889 and between 1905 and 1908. Homer's canvases usually dealt with scenes of hunting or fishing or with life in the wilderness or at sea; they were remarkable for their emotional power and strength of design. By the time of his death in 1910, Homer was widely regarded as the greatest American painter of his time.

Homer's The Wreck (1896) (96.1) won the Chronological Medal in the first Carnegie International exhibition and was the first painting purchased for Carnegie Institute. Homer served twice on the jury of the International exhibition, in 1897 and in 1901, though he was never a juror for any other institution, and he became a close friend of the museum's first director of fine arts, John Beatty, who wrote a memoir of Homer that was printed in Lloyd Goodrich's 1944 monograph on the artist.



Multimedia