The Beauty of Storms
Winslow Homer, Summer Squall, oil
I've posted before that Winslow Homer was the first painter I noticed as a little kid. My folks had a nice print of one of his watercolors hanging over the couch. Funny how these things stick with you.
Often I wonder about the vividness of childhood. Lots of things delighted me as a kid, but I can also recall being shy, and frightened too. Often I had a sense of awe in the face of what seemed a very big world. Homer painted lot of pictures that looked just like where I grew up- rocky shores and big waves. As a kid I loved the big storms that would sweep down from Canada and bash the shoreline of my home on Lake Ontario just outside Rochester. I think Homer was well in touch with his inner thrill seeking kid too, based on a painting like the one above.
One of the reasons Homer affects so many viewers is his masterful sense of space. Take this painting. That little boat with its sail blowing loose is really out there in a different world than we standing safely back on the rocks. He achieves this a bunch of different ways, but one of most telling is the change in the light that happens about half way up the canvas. Notice how all the truly light tones are segregated down to the foreground. Once you pass the big white capped wave, everything is pushed into a cool darker grey-green. It's totally convincing.
The artist is smart enough not to try to paint every wave. He describes the volume clearly for only two, and just hints by implication at the rest. Lastly, to generate the impressive force of blowing wind and moving wave, he counterbalances them against the big immobile foreground rock. The contrast is exquisite.
Homer to my knowledge never came to my hometown to paint on my boyhood home's lakeshore. But nobody else can take me back in time to that place as he can. Thanks, Winslow.