Photomicrograph: Design transfer using carbon paper

Microscope examination of Man with Plow Horse, 1879, reveals that the design for the man, horse, and plow were transferred to the watercolor sheet using carbon paper. A one-to-one correspondence between the original sketch and this watercolor was determined by laying a tracing of the watercolor over an enlargement of a reproduction of the drawing. The approximate sheet size for the drawing is 8 5/8 inches x 9 5/8 inches as measured by the Baltimore Museum when the drawing was on loan there in 1978. The figures in the watercolor are 5 7/8 inches high. Homer would have placed the drawing over the watercolor paper with carbon paper between, and then traced the drawing with a pencil or stylus. The pressure was sufficient to transfer the black carbon lines now distinctly visible. Homer then reinforced the carbon lines with pencil before painting.


Photomicrograph of Man with Plow Horse, showing the left plow handle intersecting the brown field. The narrower, black lines are black pigment transferred from carbon paper. The wider, gray lines are graphite from Homer’s pencil retracing. Original magnification 6x.