Nov 02, 2023 - Sale 2651

Sale 2651 - Lot 198

Price Realized: $ 20,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 20,000 - $ 30,000
Mending the Tears.

Etching on imitation Japan paper, 1888. 444x584 mm; 17 1/2x23 inches, full margins. Signed and inscribed "N.A." in pencil, lower left. With the anchor remarqué lower left. A superb, richly-inked impression of this large, scarce etching, with strong contrasts and no sign of wear.

Provenance: Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York, with the label on the frame back.

Homer (1836-1910) remains one of the most significant figures in the history of American Art. He was born in Boston to a long line of New Englanders and grew up in rural Massachusetts. An average student, he began a lithography apprenticeship at age 19. Homer's natural gift was evident early on and he soon shifted to freelancing as an illustrator and moved to New York in 1859, where he took classes at the National Academy of Design (but remained principally self-trained). His most important client, Harper's Weekly, assigned him as their artist-correspondent on the front during the Civil War. During this time (1860s) he created some of his first oil paintings, which were very well received and ushered in his gradual transition from that of an illustrator to a fine artist.

After the war, Homer began painting country scenes with a particular focus on women's roles in rural life. His honest yet poetic depiction of farm living was singular in America at the time (though he almost certainly was familiar with the heroizing depictions of peasant life made popular by the Barbizon artist Jean-François Millet several decades earlier). Homer was different from most artists of his day in that his genius and importance as a great American painter was recognized and appreciated during his lifetime. His paintings and watercolors were lauded by both critics and the public, particularly during the latter part of his career, when he turned his focus to marine scenes. He delved into this subject (which would come to define him) after spending two years in England, living near a fishing port, in 1881 and 1882. He exhibited many of the watercolors that he created in England on his return to the states, and his popularity grew immensely. From 1883 onward, Homer resided in scenic Prout's Neck, Maine, where he led a reclusive way of life and continued to depict the sea and man's relationship with it.

Despite being best known for his paintings and watercolors, Homer was deeply indebted to his beginnings as a draughtsman, which profoundly informed his works. Homer's printmaking had its roots in the strictly commercial (initially as a lithographic draftsman and then as a freelance wood engraving illustration artist), and he began creating "fine prints" in the form of copper plate etchings in the 1880s, when the medium was gaining popularity in America due to James A. M. Whistler and the 1860s "Etching Revival" in France. Unlike Whistler, Homer's technique was line-based (an influence from his illustration background) and he did not rely on inking and selective wiping to achieve tonal quality. Homer etched eight plates between 1884 and 1889, all were based on his popular marine paintings. He abandoned etching around 1889, partly due to its lack of profitability.

There is a watercolor and gouache painting of this subject, Mending the Nets, 1882, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Goodrich 97.