Art & Art History ETDs

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Winslow Homer has often been described as the "most American" painter. Many of Homer's biographers claim that he was not affected by the artistic movements taking place in Europe in the la e 1850's and 60's. They tend to discount Homer's ten month stay in Paris and state that the influences he must have e countered there did not affect his work. This paper pro es that Homer was influenced by the new artistic innovations occurring in France during this period and that he w1as prepared to accept and assimilate them because of a previous acquaintanceship with contemporary European art which he had had the opportunity to view in the United States.

In 1859 Homer moved to New York where there were a number of exhibitions of European art that he could have visited. Homer loved picture-galleries so that it seems probable that he attended exhibitions of European art.

Homer's early oils were primarily based on his obser­vations of soldiers at the front. These were readily accepted by the public and critics as evidenced by the selection of two of his paintings, Prisoners from the Front and Bright Side, to be hung in the American section of the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris.

There was an extremely large Fine Arts section at the Paris Exposition containing works of artists from many countries. The French academicians and the painters asso­ciated with the Barbizon school received the largest share of recognition. However, a great deal of interest was caused by the Japanese section, the first major exhibition of Japanese art in Paris, although Japanese art was not unknown in either the United States or Paris before this time. In Paris, particularly, Japanese prints and other art objects had caused much excitement among a group of artists, decorators and critics since about 1856 when Felix Bracquemond was said to have discovered a copy of prints by the Japanese artist, Hokusai. In addition to the works shown at the Exposition, Homer might have seen the Salon of 1867, the independent exhibitions held by Courbet and Manet and exhibitions of other artists' works held at smaller galleries in Paris.

J. Foxcroft Cole, a friend of Homer's from Boston, was also in Paris in 1867 and was associated with artists, of the Barbizon school and the French etchers of the Societe des Aquafortistes. It seems possible that Cole may have introduced Homer to a number of these well-known painters, or at least their works. This paper proves that Homer's confrontation with European and Japanese art in Paris had an important impact on his work. Paintings done by Homer between 1867 and 1876 have been examined and an attempt has been made to point out, through a stylistic analysis, the strong debt Homer owed to: Japanese Ukiyo-e prints; the works of Courbet; the Barbizon painters such as Rousseau, Daub1gny and Millet; the paintings and etchings of Whistler; other French etchers and Boudin. Thus, the realism inherent in Homer's paintings was reinforced not only by an American realist tradition, but to a large measure by the realism found in the works of Japanese and French artists which Homer saw in France.



Document Type


Degree Name


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Gabriel Weisberg

Second Committee Member

Bainbridge Bunting

Third Committee Member

Douglas Roland George

Fourth Committee Member

Mary Elizabeth Smith