Stowing Sail

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Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

Stowing Sail, 1903

Transparent watercolor, with touches of opaque watercolor, rewetting, blotting, scraping and graphite, on thick, moderately textured (twill texture on verso), ivory wove paper
355 x 554 mm
Signed recto, lower left, in graphite: “Sketch from Nature”; in brown watercolor over graphite: “Dec 22 1903”; in brown watercolor over black watercolor over graphite: “HOMER”
Inscribed verso, center, in graphite: "M.K.W.C. 1021-//Stowing Sail, Bahamas"; upper left, in graphite, “25811”; upper right, in graphite, “8”
Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1252

Homer created sparkling watercolor sketches of sailboats in Bahamian waters during his 1898-99 Bahamas trip. When he visited Key West, Florida, in the winter of 1903-04, he further indulged his interest in the details of local boating. There, Homer painted Stowing Sail on December 22, 1903. Everything about this watercolor points toward rapid, plein-air execution.

The artist’s graphite underdrawing is a quick and sketchy series of lines that establish the major contours on the sheet. Pentiments, or shifts, in the underdrawing show that when he began the sketch, the figure was leaning further forward, gathering the sail over the back of the boat. This adjustment suggests that Homer was working quickly to keep up with the man’s progress.

Homer applied all of his washes directly within the forms marked in the underdrawing, working wet-on-wet, as if there were not enough time to wait for one to dry before adding the next. When he brushed the heavy, red stroke at the front of the boat, it bled upward into the still-wet blue shadow on the side.

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. 44.

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. 18; 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. 209.

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. 8.

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. 7.

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. 905.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "A Century of Progress,' June 1–November 1, 1934, p. 69, cat. 487.

New York, Knoedler and Company, "Winslow Homer: Artist," January 20–February 8, 1936, cat. 11.

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. 23, cat. 57.

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.

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

Washington, D.C., The National Gallery, "Winslow Homer: A Retrospective Exhibition," November 23, 1958–January 4, 1959, pp. 105 and 127, cat. 180 (ill.); 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. 12 (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.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, "Winslow Homer," Apr. l3–June 3, 1973, p. 141, cat. 158, cat. by Lloyd Goodrich; also traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum, July 3–August 15, 1973; and The Art Institute of Chicago, September 8–October 21, 1973.

Palm Beach, Fla., The Society of the Four Arts, "Drawings from The Art Institute of Chicago," January 5–27, 1974, cat. 27 (ill.).

Jacksonville, Fla., The Cummer Gallery of Art, "Winslow Homer’s Florida, 1886–1909," April 22–May 29, 1977, p. 29, cat. 26 (ill.).

Evanston, Ill., Terra Museum of American Art, "Five American Masters of Watercolor,' May 5–July 12, 1981, p. 9 (ill.).

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, "Winslow Homer Watercolors," February 23–May 4, 1986, pp. 230, 255, cat. 215 (ill.), cat. by Helen A. Cooper; also traveled to the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Ft. Worth, Tex., June 6–August 10, 1986; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., September 11–November 2, 1986.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light," February 16-May 11, 2008, pp. 192, 193 (ill.), 198, 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. 2396.

Albert Ten Eyck Gardner, Winslow Homer, American Artist: His World and His Work (New York, 1961), p. 175 (ill.).

Philip C. Beam, Winslow Homer at Prout’s Neck (Boston, 1966), pp. 225 and 227, fig. 80.

Winslow Homer’s Sub-Tropical America, exh. cat. (Coral Gables, Fla.: Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, 1968), p. 31, cat. 48.

John Wilmerding, Winslow Homer (New York, 1972), pp. 169 and 197, fig. 5–15.

Patti Hannaway, Winslow Homer in the Tropics (Richmond, 1973), pp. 264-65, pl. 62.

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., American Master Drawings and Watercolors: A History of Works on Paper from Colonial Times to the Present (New York, 1976), pp. 243–44 and 428, fig. 202.

Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Winslow Homer (New York, 1979), pp. 257 and 286, fig. CL–118.

Laura Whipple, Celebrating America: A Collection of Poems and Images of the American Spirit (New York, 1994), pp. 61 and 77 (ill.).

Megan Holloway Fort, “Current and coming,” The Magazine Antiques 173: 2 (February 2008), pp. 16 (ill.).

“Highlights,” Antiques and Fine Art 8: 4 (Spring 2008), p. 30 (ill.).

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.