Breaking Storm, Coast of Maine

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Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

Breaking Storm, Coast of Maine, 1894

Transparent watercolor, with touches of opaque watercolor, rewetting, blotting and traces of scraping, on thick, rough-textured, ivory wove paper
384 x 546 mm
Signed recto, lower left corner, in black watercolor: "HOMER 1894"
Inscribed verso, center, in graphite: "M.K.W.C. 1024-//Breaking Storm, Coast of Maine"; upper center, in blue pencil, crossed out in graphite: "No 4"; upper left, in blue pencil: "1896"; upper left, in graphite, "25816"; upper center, in graphite, in a square: "9"
Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1236

Breaking Storm, Coast of Maine is a study of bands of juxtaposed color constructed along a strong horizon line, emphasized by a thick, dark line. Despite Homer’s indication of impending bad weather moving in from the horizon, this watercolor focuses on a moment of calm before the storm. The water’s turquoise surface is smooth and tranquil, achieved by pure, transparent washes. The artist’s loose, abstract handling of the rugged shore in the foreground calls attention to the sheer beauty of his brushstrokes.

Homer conjured the effect of land, sea, and sky seen through a veil of rain and humidity by painting wet-on-wet. In this manner, the artist introduced a new wash into one that is still wet, allowing colors to run and blend without solid boundaries. Evidence indicates that Homer learned the practice from studying Japanese ink paintings and began to employ it extensively beginning in 1889 (Walsh 1995, p. 283).

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. 47.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Twenty Watercolors 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, "The Second International Water Color Exhibition," April 15–May 21, 1922, p. 20, cat. 197.

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. 7.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Carnegie Institute, "Water Colors by Winslow Homer," September 9–October 26, 1923, p. 14, cat. 16.

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. 2.

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. 892.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1934, p. 68, cat. 469.

New York, Knoedler and Company, "Winslow Homer: Artist," January 20–February 8, 1936, cat. 14.

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. 83.

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.

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

Washington, D.C., The National Gallery, "Winslow Homer: A Retrospective Exhibition," November 23, 1958–January 4, 1959, p. 125, cat. 153; also traveled to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, January 29–March 8, 1959.

Buffalo, N.Y., Albright-Knox Art Gallery, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer," July 7–August 28, 1966, cat. 35.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light," February 16-May 11, 2008, pp. 128, 129 (ill.), 132, 210, cat. by Martha Tedeschi and Kristi Dahm.

Portland, ME, Portland Museum of Art, "Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine", September 22 - December 30, 2012, p. 148-149, pl. 16, cat. by Thomas A. Denenberg

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. 2380.

Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Winslow Homer (New York, 1979), p. 285, fig. CL–95.

Philip C. Beam et al, Winslow Homer in the 1890s: Prout’s Neck Observed, (New York, 1990), p. 126.

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, to Martin A. Ryerson (1856–1932), Chicago, November 11, 1915 [invoice]; given to the Art Institute, 1933.