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Price Realized: $87,500 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2407 Lot 159
Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake.
Etching on imitation Japan paper, 1889. 435x563 mm; 17 1/8x22 1/8 inches, full margins. Edition of approximately only 62 (from an intended edition of 100); the highest numbered extant impression is 62. Signed and inscribed "#39" in pencil, lower margin. A superb, richly-inked and dark impression of this very scarce, important American etching.
We have found only 6 other impressions at auction in the past 30 years.
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 at the time. Homer was unique 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 his focus turned 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 8 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; Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake was likely his final etching, as well as his most experimental, a culmination of his years spent perfecting the medium. Goodrich 104.
Estimate $80,000 - 120,000Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $87,500