About This Artwork

Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

The Rapids, Hudson River, Adirondacks, 1894

Transparent watercolor, with traces of opaque watercolor, blotting, and scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough-textured, ivory wove paper
384 x 546 mm
Signed recto, lower left, in pen and brown ink: "Hudson River/June 1894 W.H."
Inscribed verso, center, in graphite: "M.K.W.C. 1018-//The Rapids, Hudson River Adirondacks"

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1250

By the time Homer first began visiting the Adirondacks in the 1870s, commercial logging operations in the region were beginning to destroy large tracts of forest and to clog the rivers. He acutely observed and recorded these events in his watercolors, rarely passing explicit judgment. In The Rapids, Hudson River, Adirondacks, the artist combined themes of fishing and logging. On first encounter, this watercolor is peaceful and intimate, a virtuoso study of the movement of the river’s surface over partially submerged rocks. Long, painterly strokes of black watercolor over layers of blue describe the depth and speed of the water, while areas of bright white paper have been revealed by scraping to indicate the bubbling froth of whitewater rapids. It is only along the far bank that one becomes aware of the presence of man in this tranquil landscape, implied by the clean-cut logs lying haphazardly along the rocky bank. Even more subtle is Homer’s suggestion of a fisherman’s presence, indicated by the leaping fish at river’s edge, where the artist used his knife blade to sketch the serpentine motion of a fishing line in mid-cast. The fisherman is invisible, yet we are made to understand that the presence of human beings alters nature profoundly.

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. 9, cat. 41.

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

Pittsburgh, Pa., Carnegie Institute, "Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent: An Exhibition of Water Colors," November 1–27, 1917, cat. 12; also traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art, November 30–December 31, 1917; the Toledo Museum of Art, January 1918; the Detroit Museum of Art, February 2–28, 1918; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, March 1918; the Milwaukee Art Institute, April 1918; the City Art Museum of St. Louis, May 5–26, 1918; and the Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, New York, June 6–July 7, 1918.

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. 202.

Paris, Hotel de la Chambre Syndicale de la Curiosité et des Beaux Arts, "Exposition d'Art Americain," May 18–June 25, 1923, p. 39, cat. 12.

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. 9.

Providence, Rhode Island School of Design, "Exhibition of Water Colors by Winslow Homer," February 6–March 1, 1931, no cat.

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. 93, cat. 904.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1934, p. 69, cat. 484.

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

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

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, "Winslow Homer Centenary Exhibition," December 15, 1936–January 15, 1937, p. 26, cat. 77.

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, "Winslow Homer to Present Day Chicago," November 29–December 20, 1941, cat. 10.

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.

Minneapolis, Minn., The Walker Art Center, "American Watercolor and Winslow Homer," February 27–March 23, 1945, pp. 42 and 107 (ill.), cat. by Lloyd Goodrich; also traveled to the Detroit Institute of Art, April 3–May 1, 1945; and The Brooklyn Museum, N.Y., May 15–June 12, 1945.

New York, Century Association, "Paintings by Thomas Eakins, 1844–1916, and Watercolors by Winslow Homer, 1836–1910," January 10–February 25, 1951, no cat.

Lake Forest, Ill., Lake Forest College, "A Century of American Painting: Masterpieces Loaned by The Art Institute of Chicago," June 10–16, 1957, cat. 9.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, "Winslow Homer," April l3–June 3, 1973, pp. 104, 140, cat. 135 (ill.), cat. by Lloyd Goodrich; also traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, July 3–August 15, 1973; and The Art Institute of Chicago, September 8–October 21, 1973.

The Arts Club of Chicago, "The American Landscape," November 14–December 29, 1973, pp. 14-15, cat. 19 (ill.).

New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, "Ten Americans," May 16–July 30, 1974, n.p., cat. 74 (ill.).

Fort Worth, Tex., Amon Carter Museum, and Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, "Casting a Spell: Winslow Homer, Artist and Angler," December 7, 2002–February 9, 2003, April 11–June 22, 2003, pp. 107, 229, cat. 28 (ill.), cat. by Patricia Junker et al.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light," February 16-May 11, 2008, pp. 139, 140, 141 (ill.), 211, 212, cat. by Martha Tedeschi and Kristi Dahm.

Publication History

Kenyon Cox, “The Watercolors of Winslow Homer,” Art In America 2: 6 (October 1914), p. 409 (ill.).

“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. 2394.

Theodore Bolton, “Water Colors by Homer: Critique and Catalogue,” The Fine Arts 18: 5 (April 1932), p. 54.

Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Winslow Homer (New York, 1979), p. 286, fig. CL–116.

David Tatham, Winslow Homer in the Adirondacks (Syracuse, 1996), p. 142.

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 1914 [Art In America 1914]. Sold by Knoedler and Company, New York, to Martin A. Ryerson (1856–1932), Chicago, November 11, 1915 [invoice]; given to the Art Institute, 1933.




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