Detail: Spatter pattern

In The Outlook, Maine Coast, Homer spattered blue watercolor across the background sky, giving form to the intangible yet inescapable salt and humidity hanging in the air along the Maine coast. It appears that the artist covered select areas and then spattered the entire sheet before resuming his work. He probably accomplished this by drawing his knife across a stiff-bristled brush that was moderately charged with wash. Microscopic examination reveals that he manipulated the largest dots, breaking them up visually with a pin or another fine instrument that he used to tease up white paper fibers and indent the surface to alter the dots’ size.

The artist was acutely sensitive to how the different physical properties of materials might be described through texture. Homer controlled and modulated the watercolor spray to create textural variations across the composition. His spattering experiments show that even in 1894, when he possessed incredible command of the watercolor medium, he was still exploring novel techniques and visual effects.

Detail of The Outlook, Maine Coast, showing a blue spatter pattern to the left of the figures.