Winslow Homer spent many years hunting and fishing in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, and his relationship to the natural world profoundly affected his development as a great artist. After his early career as an illustrator during the Civil War, he turned to oil painting nearly full-time, and he also turned his back on city life. Along with the sea and the countryside, deep woods and mountain lakes became an essential inspiration for his art. The Adirondacks provided Homer a varied palette, from the flaming autumn hues of the mountain sides to the deep green shades of summers on the lakes. He portrayed scenery and also everyday life in the region in paintings that included studies of famous Adirondack guides, and the tourists and sportsmen who hired them. In a stunning series of paintings he provided a detailed account of deer hunting, from flushing out the prey, to the chase, to the kill. Without sentimentalism, he was equally interested in portraying the experience of the hunters, their dogs, and the desperate deer. His paintings of the Adirondacks help chart his progress as an oil painter and – perhaps most important – his development as a watercolor master. He was an influential genius who was key to the development of watercolors as a respected medium in the art world. Homer himself regarded his accomplishments as a watercolorist to be his “lasting legacy,” and the Adirondacks might have been his greatest muse.
Image: Winslow Homer. A Good Shot, Adirondacks, 1892. Watercolor. National Gallery of Art.