Tuesday, September 2, 2008

key west watercolors

I wanted to try something a little different today and talk a bit about an artist with a Key West connection whose work I admire.

Winslow Homer lived and worked from 1836 to 1910. The broad stroke on his background is, he was born in Boston and worked as an illustrator for Harper's Weekly during the Civil War. But, he's best remembered for his astounding watercolors.

Homer understood the science and spontaneity of the watercolor medium better than anyone else at the time. So when he'd head out on vacations to the New England coast, Bermuda or the Keys, he'd carry his brushes, paper and paint pans with him everywhere he went and capture immediate experiences, in the moment. He'd concentrate on only the essentials. . . the effects of color, light and continuous motion of ocean and air.

It was a technique considered very advanced for the day.

Homer’s Key West watercolors are among the most vibrant of his works. He made his first trip to Key West in the winter of 1885 (while James G. Jones was the city's mayor). Like all of us, he was drawn to the warm weather and loved getting out on the water to go fishing. Naturally, he also found a gold mine of colorful characters to paint. (same city, different century)

On his last trip to Key West in 1903, (Benjamin D. Trevor was mayor), Homer's artistic focus was mainly on the harbor. The watercolors he did on that trip, eleven in all, turned out to be the final series of his life.

Not long before his death in 1910, (when Dr. Joseph N. Fogarty was mayor), Homer was quoted as saying. . . “You will see, in the future I will live by my watercolors.”

I guess he was right about that.

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