Fishing off Scarborough

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Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

Fishing off Scarborough, 1882

Graphite and opaque white watercolor, with traces of black chalk, on medium weight, slightly-textured, tan laid paper with blue and red fibers
462 x 618 mm
Signed recto, lower left, in graphite: "Winslow Homer/1882"
Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1239

During Homer’s sojourn in England from 1881 to 1882, he rented a studio on a cliff overlooking Cullercoats Harbor, where he observed the comings and goings of fishing boats. Fishing Off Scarborough shows two young women and two fishermen in a coble as it slices through coastal waters. Carefully rendered in graphite, the figures and fishing boat stand in contrast to Homer’s spontaneous, abstract representation of clouds, mist, and spray done in opaque white watercolor. In addition to employing graphite to describe concrete objects, Homer used his pencil to suggest abstract effects, such as smoke rising from the steamship in the right background. Fishing Off Scarborough served as the basis for Homer’s 1883 watercolor, Returning Fishing Boats, which the artist completed after his return to New York from England.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Winslow Homer," February 6–March 19, 1911, pp. 34–35, cat. 32.

Indianapolis, Ind., John Herron Art Institute, "Memorial Exhibition of Winslow Homer," November 15–December 12, 1911, cat. 9.

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. 208.

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. 19.

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.

Indianapolis, Ind., John Herron Art Institute, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer Lent by the Art Institute of Chicago," 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. 28, cat. 110.

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.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light," February 16-May 11, 2008, pp. 17, 60, 86, 97, 100 (ill.), 108, cat. by Martha Tedeschi and Kristi Dahm.

Publication History

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1925), p. 164, no. 2383.

Masterpieces in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1952), n.p. (ill.).

Philip C. Beam, Winslow Homer at Prout’s Neck (Boston, 1966), p. 23.

William H. Gerdts, “Winslow Homer in Cullercoats,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 36: 2 (Spring 1977), p. 26.

Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Winslow Homer (New York, 1979), pp. 164 and 284, fig. CL–101.

Helen A. Cooper, Winslow Homer Watercolors, exh. cat. (Washington D.C.: The National Gallery of Art, 1986), pp. 110 and 249, fig. 105.

Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. and Franklin Kelly, Winslow Homer, exh. cat. (Washington D.C.: The National Gallery of Art, 1995), p. 216, fig. 161.

Miles Unger, The Watercolors of Winslow Homer (New York, 2001), pp. 97 and 219 (ill.).

Tony Harrison, Winslow Homer in England, 3rd edition (Concord, 2004), p. 21, fig. E131.

Ownership History

Alexander W. Drake, New York, by 1911 [New York exh. cat. 1911]; sold to the Macbeth Gallery, New York; sold to Martin A. Ryerson (1856–1932), Chicago, June 1, 1917; given to the Art Institute, 1933.