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Winslow Homer



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Winslow Homer (WINZ lo HOME er) was born in Boston in 1836, the son of a hardware merchant. His mother was an artist and encouraged young Winslow in learning to draw. In 1855 he was apprenticed as a lithographer. At age 19 he was illustrating sheet music covers and then when he was 21, he started working as an illustrator for a new magazine, Harper's Weekly. During the Civil War he worked as a pictorial reporter or illustrator for the magazine.

He went to the war front and painted war scenes. Homer did the cooking and the washing while he was staying with the soldiers.

Prisoners From the Front (detail)

A Rainy Day in Camp (detail)

In Home Sweet Home we see the soldiers in the camp. The band in the background is supposedly playing the song "Home Sweet Home". The soldiers are wearing brown boots which they were supposed to polish black, but they were usually too busy.

After the war he went to Paris and studied for a few months. His greatest talent was in using watercolors. He became one of the best watercolorists ever.

He spent time on the coast of England and also in the state of Maine. Many of his paintings such as the featured painting in this lesson Sailing the Catboat reflect the knowledge he gained of the sea and life on the coast.

Breezing Up, A Fair Wind (detail)

Compare Sailing the Catboat and Breezing Up. They are very similar. How are they alike and how are they different?

The man in the painting The Gulf Stream is in a perilous situation. What are the dangers he is facing? Is there a chance for his rescue?

The Gulf Stream (detail)

Summer Night by contrast is a tranquil scene. In his earlier seascapes he put people in the picture. Later he painted scenes that featured only the land and sea.

Summer Night

He enjoyed painting pictures of children. In his painting Snap the Whip, he shows what life was like in 1872. In this painting, the children are taking a break from their classes in the "little red schoolhouse". The green of the hills and grass make up the largest portion of the painting. Notice how the red color of the schoolhouse stands out, and how your eye is drawn to the white shirts on three of the boys. None of the boys are wearing shoes.

Snap the Whip (detail)

Homer would do studies in pencil before he painted a picture. Sometimes he worked with oil paints and sometimes with watercolor. His watercolor pictures provided a very good income for him. Homer liked to be by himself and he never married. For the last 27 years of his life he lived in a remote part of Maine away from people.

This biography was written by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher.


Gerlings, Charlotte. 100 Great Artists, New York: Gramercy Books, 2006.

Wilder, Jesse Bryant. Art History for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc, 2007.

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Look on this Reference Citations Chart.


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Art Gallery Famous Paintings Volume 1

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Research Links

Civil War pictures

Winslow Homer
art lesson for children

National Gallery of Art
look in rooms 1 and 2

Winslow Homer biography


Press "Go" to search for books about Winslow Homer.


Order the following books from Amazon.

Online book about Winslow Homer
(full view) Open

The Life and Works of Winslow Homer
by William Howe Downes (full view)

Article about Winslow Homer
Scribner's Magazine 1914

American painting of the nineteenth century: Winslow Homer
(selected pages) Order here

Winslow Homer
Nicolai Cikovsky, Franklin Kelly, Winslow Homer,
National Gallery of Art (U.S.), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)
(selected pages)

Winslow Homer and the Sea
by Carl Little (selected pages)

Winslow Homer Watercolors Cards

Credits and Solutions

Picture courtesy of The Artchive Patron Program

Puzzles on these pages courtesy of
Songs of Praise and Armored Penguin

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