A Winslow Homer show at the Met coincides with the launch of a new biography

by AryanArtnews
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New York — The painting that is at the heart of Winslow Homer: Crosscurrent, a spring blockbuster at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will not be seen until the end. It is the way it should be. Homer himself understood how suspense works. He drew you from afar with a robust and orderly composition, sharp tonal contrasts, and brightly colored blocks. Then, like a dealer’s deal card, he laid out all his stakes. That’s why each one keeps looking.

Homer’s “Gulf Stream” is not something you can spy on from a distance and just pass by. More than 4 feet wide and 2 feet high, this photo shows a shirtless black man spreading across the deck of a small wooden boat and pitching sharply towards us by the swelling sea. is showing. Sharks run through the muddy water between us and humans.

Winslow Homer was sentimental. That’s a good thing.

Homer (1836-1910) has you in his hand. dealer? He’s like a campfire narrator, his nostrils tickled by the light of fire, spreading his story with details of twelve choices.

The situation of our hero is hopeless. The mast of the boat broke. The cargo contains three or four long stems of sugar cane (reminiscent of an industry supported by both slavery and the Gulf Stream). There are whitecaps. A huge waterspout swirls from the horizon on the right. On the left side, you can find a sailing ship heading in the wrong direction. On the other hand, the water is stringed with a ribbon of red algae that resembles a trace of blood.

Those sharks. You count them. Five may have been overkill. Four is fine. But Homer doesn’t leave it there. On the right, six flying fish flash like oversized dragonflies. Their short appearance, rather than the swirling sharks (which men seem to be accustomed to), draws his attention. Why is Homer driving? What does the flying fish represent? Possibility of escape? Is it free?

Hosted by Stephanie L. Heldrich and Sylvia Yount, the Mets show, which will go to the National Gallery of Art in London, is the greatest overview of Homer’s career since the 1995 retrospective at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. It’s a knockout.

His paintings and watercolors from Gloucester, Maine, Catskill Mountains, without ignoring Homer’s most identified northeastern subject matter. Mass. — Herdrich and Yount highlight his work farther away South along the Gulfstream, including Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas, some made in the United Kingdom.

“Cross currents” will coincide with the release of the exemplary biography “Winslow Homer: American Passage” by William R. Cross. For the right story to tell about itself.

The “right story” is always clearly visible at a distance. The story America had to choose — obviously! — Ending slavery and finally respecting the story of the founding of the country: All were created with equal rights to freedom. But at that time everything was raging.

The mast of the country broke. A hurricane blew it into the sea. More than 600,000 people died in battle before the Emancipation Proclamation won, but blacks could only enjoy “a short moment in the sun,” as WEB Du Bois named Reconstruction. ..

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By the time Homer painted the “Gulf Stream” in 1899, white supremacist propaganda had rewritten the story of the Civil War, which Homer witnessed as a war artist. South Army soldiers were glorified and reconstruction was recast as a tragic mistake. Lending of prisoners expanded slavery practices, increased lynching, flooded racists, and spread inhuman stereotypes to popular culture.

Homer was careful about all of this. He is now in Boston when Frederick Douglass was forcibly expelled by 50 police officers in 1860 after telling a large crowd that “the freedom of all mankind was written in the heart by the finger of God.” bottom. He survived the Civil War. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice and moved up and down the Atlantic coast. So he painted various aspects of racial relations for decades.

An example of a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the “Cotton Pickers,” one of Homer’s compassionate depictions of dozens of female workers throughout his career (Cross calls him a “protofeminist.” I’m out). The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Carnival Outfit” is a beautiful and realistic piece of very delicate and cultural complexity painted at the end of the reconstruction. “Near Andersonville,” by Cross: “American painters have never centered a charming black woman alone as a vessel of hope for her country.”

The curator will present “Gulf Stream” as the culmination of these works. History certainly decided that. Alan Rock, known as the Dean of the Harlem Renaissance, said the “Gulf Stream” “breaks the tradition of cotton patches and back pouches” and “begins the artistic liberation of the Negroid theme in American art.” rice field. Contemporary black artists, including Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall, pay homage to this work in a complex way.

When asked by a New York gallery staff to explain the “Gulf Stream,” Homer replied, “I’m very sorry that I drew a picture that needed explanation.” But he didn’t leave it there. He struggled to make two things very clear. One is to know where you are painting. “I have crossed the Gulf Stream 10 times,” he writes — apparently in Huff — “and you should know something about it.” Second, he It was As a narrator of a painting story, he wouldn’t be the kind of person who wraps difficult things with a clean bow.

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Homer tells a gallerist (a pen soaked in irony), a “curious schoolchild” who wants to know about the “Gulf Stream”, and “the unfortunate Negro, who is now very crazy and perboiled, is rescued. I’ll be back to him. ” Even after living happily with friends and home. “

So if the “Gulf Stream” was a commentary on the plight of blacks in the South — sandwiched between the devil and the deep blue sea, and squinting at the fleeting freedom — Homer doesn’t want to offer false hope. was. Rather, he wanted the viewer to “draw his conclusions.”

In addition, he wanted to draw the sea, sharks, boats, and guys.

It’s fun to remind Cross’s biography of all the criticisms that came to Homer’s path. The way he would read his paintings was crude, sketchy, and fatally lacking in sophistication. Of course, all such criticisms showed a division of consensus on art greater than Homer. French Impressionists and other outdoor painters have already broken old standards. However, the ambivalence that many critics have expressed about Homer is still beneficial. They seemed to have felt in advance that the very qualities they chose for criticism could soon be considered a virtue.

Homer’s work may be “terribly ugly,” wrote Henry James.

On the other hand, domestic critics thought that Homer’s style was too rough, but each work was “character of the main character, appropriateness of surroundings, degree of expression, type, age, atmosphere, time zone, color strength. Modestness — All research is a Sonnet that is sufficiently rounded in its own right. “

These qualities-Homer’s keen sense of drama, his “natural” ability to convey a unity of behavior and atmosphere, and yes, his “roughness” (the lack of really healthy turmoil) -make him American today. It is the best 19th century painter to distinguish.

Homer Storytelling can Sometimes I fall into rhetoric. Large oil paintings such as “Lifeline” (1884) and “Undertow” (1886) have greatly helped to enhance his reputation during his lifetime. But Homer was also celebrated with his watercolors by his contemporaries. This is unmatched by American artists (probably except John Singer Sargent).

Half of the works in “Cross currents” are watercolors (six are directly related to “The Gulf Stream”). Many depict southern locations, where sunlight sharpened Homer’s sense of color and tropical fertility promoted his brilliance with leaves. (Homer’s palm trees almost deserve his own show.)

One of the show’s most beautiful pieces is a close-up rendering of five orange watercolors growing on a tree. The design is asymmetric and probably influenced by Japanese aesthetics. The effect (orange, blue shadows against green, implicit perfume of orange blossoms provides a descant of the sense of smell) sings sharp freshness.

Homer’s storytelling also eases both his illustrator’s taste for drama and his occasional advance into poetic metaphors with sunlit sensuality and the physical joy of being in the world. It reminds me of what was done. Make him great.

Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents Until July 31st at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. metmuseum.org..

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