First Exhibition to Examine Painter Winslow Homer’s Use of Photography opens at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art on June 23

New discoveries will be unveiled in this expansive exhibition, featuring more than 130 Homer paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and archival materials, including his camera, from the BCMA’s extensive collection of the artist’s work

 

Photograph of Winslow Homer next to his painting, "The Gulf Stream."

“Winslow Homer with ‘The Gulf Stream’ in his Studio,” ca. 1900, gelatin silver print, by an unidentified photographer. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.

This summer the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) will present Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting, the first exhibition to look at the role of photography in Homer’s artistic practice. On view June 23 through October 28, 2018, Winslow Homer and the Camera brings together over 130 objects by the artist across all mediums, ranging from master paintings to oil studies, drawings, prints, and photographs created in the United States and during his travels to Europe and the Caribbean. This comprehensive survey was inspired by the BCMA’s 2013 acquisition of a camera once owned by Homer and presents new research drawn in part from the Museum’s extensive collection of works by the artist.

"High Cliff, Coast of Maine," 1894, oil on canvas by Winslow Homer. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans. Photography: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC / Art Resource, NY.

“High Cliff, Coast of Maine,” 1894, oil on canvas by Winslow Homer. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans. Photography: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC / Art Resource, NY.

Curated by co-director Frank H. Goodyear III and Bowdoin art history professor Dana E. Byrd, the exhibition will present a full picture of the artist’s working methods and will include noteworthy archival objects, such as three wooden mannequins, his palette and watercolor brushes, his walking stick and fishing net, and two of the three cameras he owned in his lifetime. Homer acquired his first cameras during a two-year sojourn abroad in England, a trip he took in his mid-forties seeking a new direction in his art. Upon his return in 1882, scholars noted a demonstrable change in his style of painting and choice of subjects. Taking this shift and the artist’s penchant for experimentation across mediums as a point of departure, Winslow Homer and the Camera questions how new visual technology impacted the artist’s production and engagement with subjects and unveils how photography became increasingly a part of Homer’s visual investigation and broader creative practice.

“We are thrilled to present Winslow Homer and the Camera this June,” said Frank Goodyear, co-director and organizer of the exhibition. “Since the generous gift of Homer’s camera, my colleague Dana Byrd and I have been engaged in understanding how Homer’s interest in photography influenced his own artistic identity. This exhibition allows us to consider how Homer’s experimentation with photography solidifies the artist as a proto-modern figure, anticipating many of the trends and concerns of American and European artists who followed.”

Mawson & Swan camera owned by Winslow Homer, ca. 1882. Gift of Neal Paulsen, in memory of James Ott and in honor of David James Ott ’74. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine. Photography by Dennis Griggs, Tannery Hill Studio, Topsham, ME.

Mawson & Swan camera owned by Winslow Homer, ca. 1882. Gift of Neal Paulsen, in memory of James Ott and in honor of David James Ott ’74. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine. Photography by Dennis Griggs, Tannery Hill Studio, Topsham, ME.

“The opportunity to examine Homer, a well-loved and well- researched figure of American art, anew, has been so rewarding,” says Dana E. Byrd, “Utilizing the Museum’s extensive collection of the artist’s work, Frank and I have uncovered a new facet of Homer, and we hope this pioneering framework will lead to continued revelations of how the iconic painter engaged with the modern world.”

While Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting draws principally from the BCMA’s Winslow Homer Collection, the exhibition will also feature works on loan from twenty-five institutions and collectors from across the United States. Following its presentation at the BCMA, the exhibition will travel to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Museum Director Thomas Padon noted, “Homer defined the look of America in the second half of the 19th century and is central to key artists in our collection, which gives the exhibition particular resonance here at Brandywine.”

An illustrated catalogue of the same title authored by Byrd and Goodyear and published by Yale University Press will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue will serve as a significant contribution to the study of Winslow Homer and the cross-disciplinary study of painters and photography in American art.

The Museum is also pleased to announce a series of exhibition-related public programs throughout the summer and fall, featuring an array of perspectives on Homer, from art historians to fly fishermen. Highlights include:

  • A keynote program led by exhibition co-curators Frank H. Goodyear III and Dana E. Byrd, providing an orientation to the exhibition’s themes in conjunction with the exhibition’s opening;
  • Gallery talks by art historians Susan Danly and Linda Docherty
  • Music performances by faculty from the Bowdoin International Music Festival inspired by the exhibition

 

The exhibition was made possible in part by Bank of America.  This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

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thumb:Illustration of the painting, "Eight Bells," 1886, oil on canvas by Winslow Homer. Gift of anonymous donor, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA. Photography: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA / Art Resource, NY