Baker & Taylor A University of Pennsylvania art professor re-examines Winslow Homer's art in light of recent revelations about his much-protected personal life, refreshing the nation's understanding of one of its greatest painters. (Fine Arts)
University of California Press
With close analysis of Homer's art and of the personal challenges he faced throughout his life, Winslow Homer: The Nature of Observation is the most comprehensive study to date of the relationship between the artist's work and the psychological stages of his life. Elizabeth Johns uses theories advanced by Erik Erikson and Daniel Levinson to look at Homer's evolution as a painter and a person within the context of the continuing dynamics of his family. Her incisive and absorbing readings of the artist's work take into account the developmental stages of young, middle, and late adulthood, analyzing what Homer painted at the various turning points in his life.
With this psychosocial approach, Johns examines the wood-engraved illustrations of Homer's early career in relationship to the values of his family; his images of the Civil War in the context of his young manhood; his paintings of the social scene and young women's place in it in connection with his own potential for marriage; his images of fisherwomen at Cullercoats and fishermen at Prout's Neck as they relate to his interior vision during middle age; and his intrigue with the sea in his late works as an identification with the larger processes of the universe. With more than seventy-five black-and-white illustrations and forty color plates of arresting images by this American master, Winslow Homer takes into account all available documentation, including the rich trove of the artist's correspondence at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and his entire body of workillustrations for wood engravings, watercolors, and oils.
"Once again Elizabeth Johns has created a paradigm shift in our understanding of one of America's greatest painters. Peering behind the curtain that Homer drew over his private life, Johns offers a bracing, provocative, and sensitive reading of his works in light of his personal journey and his relations with his close-knit family. Her vast knowledge, profound insight, and breathtaking originality illuminate every page."--H. Barbara Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Johns's eloquent evocation of the spiritual dimension of Homer's great late paintings achieves her goal of reintroducing 'faith in the transcendent' [into] scholarly discourse."--Jules David Prown, author of Art as Evidence: Writings on Art and Material Culture
"Elizabeth Johns's biography of Homer revolutionizes our understanding of this well-known yet enigmatic artist. Arguing that "the themes [Homer] pursued come from his life," Johns uses Erik Erikson's theories of identity and life cycle to frame her investigation of Homer's personal choices--choices revealed in his correspondence with his family, his relationship with other artists, and the social expectations of his milieu. Through this sensitive and elegantly written book, we come to know, even identify with, Homer's developmental journey, and so appreciate more fully the magnificent achievement of his art."--Carol Troyen, John Moors Cabot Curator of American Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston