Homer's Unique Process of Making Art Essay

Homer's Unique Process of Making Art Essay

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While a distinction between fine art and illustration is often made, the work of Winslow Homer certainly appears to bridge the two. When comparing Homer's engravings to his paintings the artistic intent of his work is evident. Often Homer would take an engraving and develop it further as an oil painting. However, Homer occasionally would reverse this process. This interchangeability between a wood engraving, intended for mass reproduction, and oil painting reveals that regardless of medium Homer's artwork had substance. As an artist Homer had a clear message that he wanted expressed through each of his creations. This intention is what makes his images more than simply illustrations. As Albert Dorne stated “The form in which an artist chooses to create is secondary” (Dorne 1). Both Homer's woodblock engravings and their matching oil paintings were created with artistic intent and therefore gives them significance as pieces of fine art. In my essay I will compare and contrast Homer's oil painting Snap the Whip, 1872, oil on canvas with Snap the Whip, 1873, wood engraving published by Harper's Weekly. These two pieces reflect Homers's process of translating one of his painting to a wood engraving.
A group of young boys playing a game presumably called snap the whip is the subject of both Homer's Snap the Whip images. The object of the game is to form a human chain by joining hands. As one boy anchors the human whip, the other boys run forward trying to avoid breaking away from the others. In both of Homer's works he depicts the human whip in motion with two boys on the end of the chain being thrown off. The setting of the images is an open field dotted with flowers and stones. A small home appears behind the boys and on the left ...

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... message. The exclusion of color in the wood engraving limits the available channels for Homer to illustrate his intended message. The image with the color shows not only criticism but also hopefulness of what America could be. With that being said both images are true works of art. Homer was not only able to create beautiful artwork but also imbed socially relevant narratives in the medium of his choice.

Works Cited
Atkinson, D. Scott, Jochen Wierich, and Sue Taylor. Winslow Homer in Gloucester. Chicago: Terra Museum of American Art, 1990. Print.
Dorne, Albert. "Is Illustration Art?" Ed. Walt Reed and Roger Reed. The Illustrator in America, 1880- 1980: A Century of Illustration. New York: Published for the Society of Illustrators by Madison Square Press, 1984. 7. ISBN: 0942604032.)
Prown, Jules D. "Winslow Homer in His Art." American Art 1.1 (1987): 30. Print.

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