Friday, July 22, 2011
Fine Arts Friday: It's Summer!
(As always, click on the painting to see it in a larger size.)
The spirit of summer--fun!--led to me thinking about Winslow Homer's watercolors of children. In 1873, Homer went to live in the fishing town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and began his forays into watercolors, painting of children, in quick strokes, in the Gloucester environs during the summer. Boys are out of school and seeking fun--boating, hunting, playing games, and watching the shoreline. When they're hungry, they dig clams, collect wood, build a fire, and have a clambake. They seem totally at ease in their pursuits, even in occasional boredom or rest on a rock. Undoubtedly, they did not have to be urged by their mothers to go outside, since outside is their preferred habitat--outside to freedom and conspiracy with confreres. Some of these boys are undoubtedly the sons of fishermen; others might be here on vacation. We know that at night they go home to their mothers, their dinners, and their beds, but out here they assume an air of self-sufficiency and self-confidence.
Toys are at a minimum, and there's no playground in sight. Here some boys fashion a seesaw from a board and rocks--which may be an element in a game.
Boys have found a kitten down by the shore. The mama cat sits patiently as they handle her offspring. Each boy sports a different kind of hat: one white bowler with a blue ribbon pointing to wealth; a straw hat of a farmer; and the navy blue Union cap of a soldier--the imagined futures of these three?
Boys and a Kitten
I don't know what kind of eggs the boy is hunting, but the flying gulls, sand, and shells show that these boys are close to the shore. What will they do with the eggs--sell them, eat them, or take them home?
How Many Eggs?
I like how the boys in this painting are totally relaxed on a glassy sea on a windless day. They do not seem bored--water is mesmerizing after all--and their eyes seem fastened on the horizon. The painting evokes longing for the future--"What is beyond there?" is the implied question and "When can I go there?"
Seven Boys in a Dory
I like the self-confidence these boys exude on the catboat which is commanded by the seated adult. Homer later worked this watercolor into the famous Breezing Up (also called Fair Wind) of 1876. Unlike Homer's great oil paintings of later years, such as The Fog Warning and The Gulf Stream, the emphasis in not on the elemental struggle of man and sea but on the unity of purpose of the boaters and the wind as the sailboat cuts through the water. The relaxed pose of the boys indicates that they are already old hands at boating.
Sailing the Catboat
These boys may be waiting for a boat to come in or just lying around til they think up what they are going to do next. But it is summer and there is no hurry.
Three Boys on the Shore