"Maine Coast," oil on canvas, 1896
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Winslow Homer and the Eternal Allure of the Sea

On the 180th anniversary of the acclaimed American artist’s birth, we celebrate his beloved maritime works in The Met’s collection

Winslow Homer (February 24, 1836–September 29, 1910) is regarded by many as the greatest American painter of the nineteenth century. The Met is fortunate to own more than three hundred examples of the artist’s work: dramatic oil paintings, dazzling watercolors, and expressive etchings and lithographs. These range from his early anecdotal accounts of American life to later meditations on universal themes.

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“Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake,” etching, 1889. One of five original Winslow Homer plates acquired by The Met in 1941

In 1883, in his middle forties, Homer gave up his home in New York City and moved to Prouts Neck, Maine, a rugged peninsula ten miles south of Portland, where he lived until his death. Here the artist painted numerous images of the sea under various weather conditions and at different times of day. The nautical setting inspired him to portray some of the great themes of his career, including the struggles of people against the sea and the relationship of fragile human life to nature’s ultimate power. 

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“Sloop, Nassau,” watercolor and graphite on white wove paper, 1899

A dedicated gallery in The Met’s American Wing showcases Homer’s work, where several paintings depict impressive scenes from his adopted state of Maine. The artist also traveled frequently, to the Bahamas, Québec, the Adirondacks, and Florida. The etching (above) and watercolor (left) testify to his travels; Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake is possibly the last etching he produced.

After 1890, he abandoned direct narrative to concentrate most of his efforts on recording the fierce beauty of the sea itself, focusing on the sheer drama and force of the water and shoreline. Nature’s majesty is clearly on view in Cannon Rock of 1895, below.

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“Cannon Rock,” oil on canvas, 1895

You can share Winslow Homer’s love of the great outdoors with our on-demand digital reproductions of his selected works, created by the Photographic Studio of The Met. Check out this seaworthy collection here.

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