Winslow Homer: Force of Nature ★★★★★ The National Gallery | Sep 10, 2022 - Jan 8, 2023


Winslow Homer (1836-1910) is one of America's best known and most beloved painters. This major exhibition co-organised with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York should bring to the fore his importance for British lovers of the arts. Homer came of age in the Civil War and his early experience as a printmaker brought him to the front as part of the press coverage of that cataclysm. In the first gallery of this exhibition, War and 'Reconstruction' Homer depicts scenes from the conflict and its aftermath. Enigmatic and thought provoking works like Prisoners from the Front (1866) and A Visit from the Old Mistress (1876) capture so much of American history that continues to inform the country's contemporary political landscape. The war experience had a lasting impact on both the artist and his art, and his concern with social issues never left him. It is present in the room, Rescue Scenes & Cullercoats, which catalogues his visit to England and his admiration for the strong people who make their living from the sea. It is also reflected in the gallery, 'The Tropics,' which chronicles his visits to the Caribbean and where he paints the poignant A Garden in Nassau (1885). However, the conflict and social division between men also leads Homer to explore the relationship and combat between people and nature. This ambiguous interaction is beautifully expressed in the contrasting works Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) (1873-76) and The Gulf Stream (1899, reworked by 1906). Ultimately however, as represented in the gallery, Pure Seascapes, Homer moves on to a consideration of the dark expression of power and struggle as it exists within nature itself. This is wonderfully forceful work! Homer's creations do not always give up their meaning easily, but time invested in studying these pieces is always well rewarded. There is also a film which provides an excellent curatorial overview of the exhibition. This may be a good place to start your journey into the world of this consummate chronicler of the human condition.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: The Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer (1899, reworked by 1906) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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