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Winslow Homer The Illustrator: His Wood Engravings, 1857-1888 from the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Winter Park, Florida

 

The exhibition Winslow Homer The Illustrator: His Wood Engravings, 1857-1888 from the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Winter Park, Florida will be on display at the J. Wayne Stark University Center Galleries, from August 26 - October 19, 2003. The J. Wayne Stark University Center Galleries are located at the northeast corner of the Memorial Student Center on the Texas A&M University campus, College Station, TX.

Winslow Homer the Illustrator: His Wood Engravings, 1857-1888 is drawn from the collection of over 230 images owned by the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida. This collection represents nearly eighty percent of the illustration done by Winslow Homer (1836-1910), one of America's greatest artists. In this exhibition of 145 engravings, we see the early, precocious Homer and we follow him as he records the Civil War in almost fifty images, from 1860 to 1865. We travel to Paris and back with Homer, and finally, we revel with him in the balls, the landscapes, the ocean, the children at play-in sum, the joyous aspects of middle-class life in the United States in the 1870s and the 1880s.

To follow his illustrations in this exhibition is to observe the growth of an artist from self-taught, popular illustrator of 1858 to a deeply moving, major artist of 1873. Thirty-one of the creative years of Homer's oeuvre are traced in this exhibition. As possible in few exhibitions of Homer's art, one can trace the transformation of the artist here as he moves from his youthful attempts to mature style.

Homer was one of the most prolific artists of his day. Working as an illustrator from 1857 to 1888, he completed 288 different illustrations. After 1863, he also worked in oils and watercolors, both of which he developed more fully after 1873, when he largely abandoned his role as illustrator. His illustrations were done during one of the most tumultuous and fascinating periods of American history: the period just before, during, and after the Civil War. His wood engravings reflect the confidence and spirit of the American people, particularly the middle-class readers of popular magazines.

Homer arrived in New York at the advent of the illustrated newspaper and magazine. The illustrations that accompanied the text were made from engraved blocks of wood on which a picture had been drawn. The hardwood block was strong enough to withstand tens of thousands of printings, a trait that was crucial for the publication of magazines with a national circulation.

The publishers of Harper's and other magazines apparently had little incentive to preserve Homer's drawings themselves, for as soon as one block was printed, it would be planed down and reused. Few were kept, anymore than people keep weekly magazines today, much less the plates for an illustration.

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum purchased these 230 wood engravings designed by Homer through the James and Suzanne Markel Fund in 1989. Mr. Markel first became interested in the graphic art of Winslow Homer as a student at the Addison Gallery in New England. There, he saw how these fascinating black-and-white narratives told the story of America through three different decades. They have always been to him a key to America's history, morals and culture in the nineteenth century. Mrs. Markel has also been inspired by the gentler, more nostalgic scene that Homer so ably shows us.

This exhibition was organized by Cornell Fine Arts Museum in Winter Park, Florida and toured nationally by Smith Kramer, Inc. a fine arts service in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

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