A Vibrant Surface: Investigating Color, Texture and Transparency in Winslow Homer's Watercolors
Heralded among America's master watercolorists, Winslow Homer (1836–1910) explored a wide range of themes, styles and techniques in the approximately 685 watercolors he painted from 1873–1905. This chapter discusses 59 watercolors from the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, which encompass Homer's three decades of watercolor painting. A comprehensive scientific study of the palette of these works—carried out mostly using non-invasive techniques—serves as the basis for an extensive interdisciplinary discussion on the importance of color, texture and transparency in the artist's oeuvre. Homer reached a pinnacle in his career with his sophisticated representations of a changing natural landscape. His artistic sensibility was married to a mastery of the watercolor technique, which is illustrated by the increasing technical complexity and sophisticated exploitation of individual pigment properties in his works. This survey provides new material for the art historians studying Homer's complex watercolor technique. It offers insight into the importance of the artist's deliberate choices of colorants and their juxtapositions in his work. A deep knowledge of the chronological evolution of the artist's materials and painting techniques also offers valuable guidance to conservators charged with preserving these prized and admired watercolors.