February 24 – Happy Birthday, Winslow Homer!

Posted on February 24, 2018

Today's famous birthday is one of the most famous American artists ever!

Winslow Homer, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on this date in 1836, had a happy childhood and was especially close to his mother, who was herself an artist.

He was almost entirely self-taught - no fancy art school for him! - and he said that artists shouldn't spend time looking at other artists' paintings. Instead, he said, artists should "stutter in a language of their own."

Immediately after graduation, Homer spent a couple of years as an apprentice to a commercial lithographer, making prints from specially prepared stones. But since the age of 21, he never held a job or had a boss - instead, he worked freelance as an illustrator, and later was a self-employed painter.

A freelance illustrator takes on particular tasks - such as illustrating stories, creating ads, painting portraits, or sketching current events - for particular magazines, newspapers, book publishers, or other businesses. 

In Homer's case, he contributed illustrations of urban and rural New England, went to the front lines of the Civil War, and created nostalgic and sentimental illustrations in the post-war period.

As you can see from these Civil War illustrations
(above and below), Winslow Homer illustrated
battle action but also quiet moments at camp.

Homer never married. He was intensely private and wouldn't even tell his biographer about his personal life and feelings. There is some evidence that he dated (he would have used the word courted) several women who later turned down his marriage proposals and broke his heart - but these speculations are just that - speculations. Homer didn't let us in to that part of his life, so we will never really know about it...

Homer got quite a lot of success and positive reviews of his artwork from a young age, but he didn't become financially stable for a number of years. 

He's especially known for his oils, his watercolors, and his sea and seaside subjects. 

Check out the variety of feelings that these paintings have, despite the fact that they are all just basically paintings of small boats:

Of course, Homer painted many scenes with no boats!

Notice that Homer, unlike many white men of his time, sometimes focused his attention on women's daily work and activities and on African Americans and their experiences.

Also on this date:

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