Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

The Cock Fight, 1885

Transparent and opaque watercolor, with traces of scraping, over graphite, on thick, moderately textured, cream wove paper (top and lower edges trimmed)
265 x 484 mm
Signed recto, lower right, in red-purple watercolor: "Homer 1885"

Inscribed verso, upper right, in graphite: "27" [encircled]
George F. Harding Collection, 1982.1579

The Cock Fight

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In contrast to the free, confident brushwork of his Nassau images, Homer’s watercolors completed in Cuba (winter 1884-85) are characterized by more neutral color and finicky handling. In The Cock Fight, Homer used the simple backdrop of a plaster wall to offset his careful depiction of two decoratively feathered roosters. Although painted with atypical deliberation, the watercolor is intended to capture the fleeting moment when a battered young rooster has just vanquished an older, fully plumed male. As the fallen bird dies, feathers and dust stirred up by the battle still hover in the humid air.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Reichard and Company, Water-Color Views by Winslow Homer, December [c. 18–c. 31], 1885 [according to correspondence from Abigail Booth Gerdts to the Art Institute, May 6, 1997].

Boston, Doll and Richards, Winslow Homer and Walter Gay, February 19-March 3, 1886 [according to correspondence from Abigail Booth Gerdts to the Art Institute, May 6, 1997].

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light," February 16-May 11, 2008, pp. 176, 178, 179 (ill.), 210, cat. by Martha Tedeschi and Kristi Dahm.

Ownership History

John La Farge (1835–1910), Boston, before 1910 [according to correspondence from Abigail Booth Gerdts to the Art Institute, May 6, 1997]. George F. Harding, Jr. (died 1939) and the George F. Harding Museum, Chicago, before 1939; ownership transferred to the Art Institute, 1982; accessioned by the Art Institute, 1990.