Maritime Painting: Winslow Homer

Charlotte Miller

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Maritime Painting

A trip to Europe was the start of the famous American painter Winslow Homer’s career in marine painting after his well-known work as an illustrator illustrating the Civil War’s front lines. But Homer first became “enchanted” with the land, sea, and sky when he returned to the United States, especially on the beaches of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Not only was Winslow Homer an accomplished watercolorist, but he was also an accomplished sketch artist and oil painter.

Winslow Homer’s paintings of maritime scenes were seen to be extremely emotive and potent. Yet, notwithstanding that Winslow Homer’s characters seemed so straightforward at face value, in their core substance, they tackled the concept of suffering in the aura of a completely cynical world.

You can learn about Winslow Homer’s creative painting style through the long list of Winslow Homer prints. Below is a look at some of Winslow Homer’s paintings.

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Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)

Winslow Homer painted “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)” in oil between 1873 and 1876. Its creation began in 1873 in New York after his first watercolor painting experience in Gloucester, Massachusetts. For this oil painting, he used his sketches while in Massachusetts. 

The scene in the picture shows activity on the coastal ocean on a windy day. It has vivid color and fine detail in the shadows. A guy and three sons in a catboat are depicted in the painting, taking in the waves. The catboat only has one sail, and the boy operating the till appears unconcerned about using just one hand for navigating.

The laid-back environment demonstrates that the boaters are enjoying life on the waterway without being bothered by the ocean waves. Positive vibes are conveyed in the painting. The addition of a second schooner in the distance and the removal of a fourth child from the area near the mast are only two of the several modifications the artist created to this composition, as revealed by infrared rays. 

The compositional balance established by the artist indicates that the artwork has a Japanese influence. While the right offers nothing in the way of the main material, the left is busier. The artist had been to France twice, in 1866 and 1867; it is also clear that Courbet’s and Monet’s marine themes affected this painting.

This painting by Winslow Homer had a significant impact on later American painters because of his direct and energizing depictions of man’s stoic interaction with a harsh or indifferent wilderness.

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The Fog Warning

Among the most well-known watercolor paintings by Homer is “The Fog Warning”. He visited Cape Ann in Massachusetts in the summer of 1884 to sketch and take in the fishing fleet of Gloucester. Winslow eventually joined the drawing to get greater oil compositions while still hauling coal aboard the schooners.

Some of Winslow Homer’s watercolor paintings, like this artwork, shows a fisherman steering a dory loaded with two or more enormous halibut weights. When the vessel hits a wave, the fisherman puts on his belt and glances up into the sky towards a big sailboat, or as one critic described it, a “huge, intimidating cloud”. The artist often tackled the idea of solitude from multiple perspectives, emphasizing the character of the primary subjects’ destiny. 

He may have been inspired by the sailors he came across or the tales he overheard while traveling with them, and with all that inspiration, he created this amazing piece.

The Herring Net

This magnificent Winslow Homer fine print features two fishermen battling the crashing waves and loading their captured fish onto their fishing boat.

One of the fishermen can be seen bowing down and heaving the net full of shiny herrings onto the boat while the other fisherman is sitting on the edge of the vessel, emptying the fishnet. Comparatively speaking, the fisherman hoisting the net seems larger and more audacious. Yet, despite the tumultuous circumstances, both fishermen appear to be in harmony with the fishing activities. Heroism, livelihood, and harmony are the three fundamental themes of “The Herring Net”. 

Due to the murky sky and the sea’s dark reflection, it appears to be nightfall or possibly dawn. To provide for themselves and their family, the sailors are centered on their regular fishing activities.

“The Herring Net” was the last work by Winslow Homer, and it was finished in 1885. Homer was fascinated by the struggles of the fisherman at sea and the women who were waiting for them at home while they repaired nets, cleaned fish, and took care of the dwellings. This fascination led him to create this lovely painting.

The Life Line

Winslow Homer’s oil painting, “The Life Line”, focuses primarily on sea themes. His image serves as a conceptual illustration of how to save people from sinking ships at sea. It represents two people suspended from a breeches lift suspended from a rope and a winch on the top side. 

This picture illustrates the breeches lift, a method for saving life on sinking ships invented in America in early 1884. Additionally, he created many paintings in dark sheds, showing vast seas covered with rain. 

First, a saved person is depicted in an insentient state sprawled on the lift’s rear in the line-life image. The second figure has a bewildered countenance and is tightly encircling the insentient individual in its arms. The amazing brush strokes used in this painting make it one of the best maritime paintings by Homer.


From these paintings, it is easy to see why many artists drew inspiration from Homer’s sea visions. Like Henri and Bellows, Kent traveled to Maine’s rocky shore to paint from the same landscape that had inspired his hero, Winslow Homer.

Winslow Homer’s impact persisted into the twentieth century, particularly among painters who rejected European-inspired abstraction tendencies and remained committed to expressing a uniquely American voice. In addition, Winslow was a genuinely remarkable artist with an incredible passion for maritime art.