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Campfire, Adirondacks

A work made of transparent and opaque watercolor, with blotting and scraping, on thick, moderately-textured, ivory wove paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of transparent and opaque watercolor, with blotting and scraping, on thick, moderately-textured, ivory wove paper.


c. 1892


Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

About this artwork

In Campfire, Adirondacks, the guide Rufus Wallace is seated among the sheltering roots of a giant overturned hemlock. The tree’s roots are expressive formal elements in their own right, but these ancient tentacles also seem to protect the resting man. Like many of Homer’s Adirondacks watercolors, Campfire, Adirondacks was conceived on the spot, with washes laid in to suggest areas of light and shadow, but the artist probably finished the work back in his studio in Maine or at the North Woods Club. Conveying a convincing sense of immediacy and spontaneity, Homer’s watercolors were often the result of deliberate planning and several campaigns of painting. Sometimes ephemeral effects were difficult to recapture in the studio, as in the smoke of the campfire where color was applied and blotted repeatedly.

Visual evidence indicates that Homer used resist to define the crooked tree trunks on the lefthand side of the composition. Without this tool, it would have been impossible to achieve the intricate contours of the trunks while simultaneously applying an even wash to the surroundings. Over a preliminary gray wash, Homer, following his graphite underdrawing, would have brushed on the resist in the shape of the tree trunks. Even before it dried, it would form a strong, cohesive film on the paper’s surface without soaking into the fibers; because oil repels water, it would have remained undisturbed while Homer brushed dark-blue wash across it and the neighboring area. Once the wash dried, he would have scrubbed off the resist with a dull scraper or stiff brush and a solvent such as turpentine. Homer’s vigorous cleaning may have broken up the resist, scattering tiny fragments that became lodged in slow-drying, dense, or gum-rich passages of watercolor elsewhere on the sheet. When he was finished, the forms of the trunks were visible against the blue background.


Currently Off View


Prints and Drawings


Winslow Homer


Campfire, Adirondacks


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Transparent and opaque watercolor, with blotting and scraping, on thick, moderately-textured, ivory wove paper


Signed recto, lower right corner, in brush and dark brown watercolor: "HOMER/Sketch" Inscribed verso, upper left, in graphite: "25 815"; center, in graphite: "M.K.W.C. 1026-//The Campfire, Adirondacks"


38.4 × 54.5 cm (15 1/8 × 21 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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