About This Artwork

Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

Prout's Neck, Breakers, 1883

Watercolor, with blotting and sanding, over charcoal, on moderately thick, moderately textured, ivory wove paper
381 x 546 mm
Signed recto, lower left, scraped into brown watercolor pigment: "W. Homer 1883"
Inscribed verso, center, in brownish-black ink: "41" [set within a circle]; center, in graphite: "M.K.W.C. 1011-//Prout’s Neck, Breakers"

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1247

Homer’s decision to move to Maine in 1883 presumably indicated his desire to live close to nature—Prout’s Neck was a peninsula known for its rocky coastline and dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Prout’s Neck, Breakers, later the model for the monumental oil painting Early Morning after a Storm at Sea, shows the artist’s continued fascination with the power of the sea. However, unlike his earlier marine works, this and other watercolors made at Prout’s Neck are usually devoid of human activity, exploring nature’s grandeur in its many manifestations. This work also exemplifies important aspects of Homer’s technique as a watercolorist, including the way he layered strokes of color—using a range of light and dark blues—to create the depth and force of the breaking waves. He used the white of the paper to produce a brilliant sheen on the sea, juxtaposed with a hazy sky above.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, The Museum of the Brooklyn Institute, "Water Colors by Winslow Homer," October 16–November 7, 1915, p. 8, cat. 34.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Twenty Water Colors by Winslow Homer, Martin Ryerson Collection," January 5–June 16, 1916, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer Lent by Martin A. Ryerson," October 1–26, 1920, no cat.

Muskegon, Mich., Hackley Art Gallery, "Watercolors and Drawings by Winslow Homer, Lent by Martin Ryerson," May 9¬June 20, 1921, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer, Martin Ryerson Collection," July–September, 1921, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "The Second International Water Color Exhibition," April 15–May 21, 1922, p. 20, cat. 191.

Omaha Society of Fine Arts, December 26, 1924–February 3, 1925, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer from the Collection of Martin A. Ryerson," April 1926, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer from the Collection of Martin A. Ryerson," July–Fall, 1926, no cat.

The Buffalo Fine Art Academy, Albright Art Gallery, "An Important Group of Paintings in Oil and Water Color by Winslow Homer: Loaned by The Art Institute of Chicago," December 15, 1929–January 6, 1930, cat. 5.

City Art Museum of St. Louis, "Water Colors by Winslow Homer Lent by the Art Institute of Chicago," December 15, 1932–January 15, 1933, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1933, p. 92, cat. 901.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1934, p. 69, cat. 481.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Homer Centenary," July 16–August 16, 1936, no cat.

Indianapolis, Ind., John Herron Art Institute, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer Lent by the Art Institute of Chicago," November 1–December 15, 1936, no cat.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Carnegie Institute, "Centenary Exhibition of Works by Winslow Homer," January 28–March 7, 1937, p. 25, cat. 87.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Twenty-Two Watercolors by Winslow Homer," April 13–May 14, 1944 (Gallery G59), no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Water Colors and Drawings by Winslow Homer," October 14–December 4, 1944 (Gallery 13), no cat.

Washington, D.C., The National Gallery, "Winslow Homer: A Retrospective Exhibition," November 23, 1958–January 4, 1959, pp. 63 and 123, cat. 119; also traveled to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 29–March 8, 1959.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "Eight American Masters of Watercolor," April 23–June 16, 1968, n.p., cat. 4 (ill.); also traveled to the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, June 28–August 18, 1968; and the Seattle Art Museum, September 5–October 13, 1968.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light," February 16-May 11, 2008, pp. 16, 109, 110, 111 (ill.), 123, 134, 209, 210, cat. by Martha Tedeschi and Kristi Dahm.

Publication History

“Knoedler Firm Buys 21 Winslow Homers,” New York Herald (November 19, 1915).

“Notes,” Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago 10: 2 (February 1916), p. 143.

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1925), p. 164, no. 2392.

Theodore Bolton, “Water Colors by Homer: Critique and Catalogue,” The Fine Arts 18: 5 (April 1932), p. 50.

Gordon Hendricks, Life and Work of Winslow Homer (New York, 1979), p. 286.

Helen A. Cooper, Winslow Homer Watercolors, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.; The National Gallery of Art, 1986, p. 129, no.3.

Bruce Robertson, Reckoning with Winslow Homer: His Late Paintings and Their Influence, exh. cat. (Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1990), pp. 22 and 165, fig. 10.

Judith Walsh, “A Summer’s Pleasure: Incoming Tide, Scarboro, Maine, by Winslow Homer,” The American Art Journal 25: 1 and 2 (1993), pp. 66 and 68, fig. 6.

Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., and Franklin Kelly, Winslow Homer, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.: The National Gallery of Art, 1995), pp. 365–66, fig. 228.

Miles Unger, The Watercolors of Winslow Homer (New York, 2001), pp. 1 and 221 (ill.).

Robert M. Poole, “Hidden Depths,” Smithsonian Magazine 39: 2 (May 2008), p. 90.

Ownership History

The artist to his brother, Charles S. Homer, Jr. (1834–1917), New York, by 1910 [according to correspondence from Abigail Booth Gerdts to the Art Institute, February 10, 2007]. Charles W. Gould (1849–1931), New York, by 1915 [Brooklyn exh. cat. 1915]. Sold by Knoedler and Company, New York, Martin A. Ryerson (1856–1932), Chicago, November 11, 1915 [invoice]; given to the Art Institute, 1933.




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