Watercolor and gouache with graphite
Support: Beige(2) wove paper
Sheet: 19.4 x 34.9 cm (7 5/8 x 13 3/4 in.)
Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 1954.128
The mottled texture of the sky is an example of Homer’s blotting technique—a subtractive process in which he applied a wash of water, sprinkled some breadcrumbs, and then gently rubbed the paper with his fingers in order to absorb the extra color, leaving behind a granulated texture.
In this work from a series of watercolors produced in Gloucester, MA, in the summer of 1873 Winslow Homer evokes the fraught nature of the local fishing industry by focusing not on the perilous work of adults, but rather the children they leave behind. In Boy with Anchor, the massive anchor pointing toward the sea foreshadows the weight of the boy’s maritime destiny. The work is an early example of Homer's talent for evoking atmospheric effects and his interest in technical variety. Presumably working outdoors, Homer layered fluent washes of blue, gray, and brown transparent watercolor over his graphite underdrawing to flesh out the beach and sky. He built up the hot, pebble-studded surface of the beach by using dense gouache to draw textural detail and created the broken cloud pattern in the sky by lightly blotting his wet blue wash. The picture’s formal tensions between warm and cool colors, outline and wash, and transparency and opacity mirror the emotional tension of the scene.
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