Photomicrograph: Red glaze and undissolved gum granules

Glazing was a common practice among 19th-century watercolorists. A shiny surface, visible only when the watercolor is viewed at an angle, reveals where glazes have been applied. Homer’s use of glazes on watercolor probably developed as a result of those used in his Civil War–era oil paintings.

Touches of glossy red glaze were applied to the ends of the fishermen’s buoys in The Return, Tynemouth, heightening the illusion of wet, round floats glinting in the sunlight. Homer used the glaze over strokes of vermillion watercolor, an opaque, matte pigment that probably appeared too flat to achieve the desired effect. Solid, undissolved gum granules in the glaze, visible under magnification, indicate that the artist made his glazes by dissolving dry gum in water and then mixing it with watercolor.


Photomicrograph of The Return, Tynemouth, illustrating the red glaze on the buoy and revealing undissolved gum granules in the center of the glaze layer. Original magnification 8x.