Saturday, September 09, 2017

Homer and Hurricane Paintings

I wondered if there were any paintings of Hurricanes or their aftermath and went looking. The answer is 'not many' - this is what I found.

Winslow Homer seems to be the main exponent of hurricane painting.

Hurricane, Bahamas (1898) by Winslow Homer
Watercolor and graphite on off-white wove paper
14 7/16 x 21 1/16 in. (36.7 x 53.5 cm)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
His first painting - done in 1898 - is of the high winds and gloomy skies associated with the periphery of a hurricane. It seems to be sketched plein due to the accuracy of the colour of the clouds and what's happening to the palm trees.

This was the era when he was absorbed with the power of the sea .

The next painting by Homer was done the following year and is the more famous of the two. It's called After the Hurricane.

After the Hurricane, Bahamas (1899) by Winslow Homer
Transparent watercolor, with touches of opaque watercolor, rewetting, blotting and scraping, over graphite, on moderately thick, moderately textured (twill texture on verso), ivory wove paper
38 × 54.3 cm (15 × 21.4 in)
Art Institute of Chicago

It resides at the Art Institute of Chicago and this is what they have to say about it.
"After the Hurricane, Bahamas" shows a luckless man—seemingly the same model depicted in The Water Fan—washed up on the beach, surrounded by fragments of his shattered boat. The splintered boat testifies to the frightening severity of the hurricane, even as billowing black clouds recede into the distance and sunlight begins to glimmer through the clouds. Frothy white caps and a surprising horizontal stroke of brilliant green in the distance conjure an ocean that is gradually calming itself. Homer used thin washes and fluid brushstrokes to render the waves, setting up a contrast to dry land, where he employed opaque red and yellow pigments, thickly applied, for the seaweed tossed upon the sand by the storm.
Homer is, of course, well known for painting the sea in all its many manifestations - including roaring storms off the coast of Maine.  He also was adept at changing the way he worked in watercolour for the different environments in which he painted - not least because he became more and more skilled at understanding how light and colour worked in different atmospheric conditions. Hence he changed his colours as the light and atmosphere changed.

He started visiting the Caribbean in the mid 1880s and swopped the seas off the Maine coast around his studio at Prout Neck for the much bluer seas under very blue skies around Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas. In fact all the places currently being visited by Hurricane Irma!

They're both late works - he died in 1910 at the age of 74.

2 comments:

Geof said...

Hi Katherine,
Inspired by this really interesting piece I did a bit of googling around
and came across this blog post that I thought might be of interest.
http://www.wendyrodrigue.com/2010/01/hurricanes-series-of-paintings.html?m=1

Best regards Geof

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I also found that one - but did you see the paintings!