The Water Fan

A work made of watercolor, with blotting and touches of scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough twill-textured, ivory wove paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

Image actions

  • A work made of watercolor, with blotting and touches of scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough twill-textured, ivory wove paper.

Date:

1898/99

Artist:

Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

About this artwork

The Water Fan depicts a young black man intently searching for coral using a glass-bottomed bucket. Referred to as a “water glass” or “sponge glass,” this device was used to stabilize the surface of moving water in order to improve visibility. Homer may have been attracted to the subject because it draws attention to the constantly moving surface of the water as well as its transparency, aspects of the sea that especially intrigued him in the Bahamas. Like The Sponge Diver (1898/99; MFA Boston), this work originally had more visible red washes in the water, hinting at the pink coral beneath the surface. While these areas have faded, the fluid strokes of darker blue over layers of transparent turquoise are effective in suggesting the play of light, both direct and reflected, over water.

Homer depicted light shimmering on the ocean using watercolor paper with a heavy twill texture in The Water Fan. The diagonal pattern of the sheet, which runs from top right to lower left, was imparted during manufacture by the papermaker’s woven wire screen that supported the paper pulp during sheet formation. The opposite side is relatively smooth. A truncated watermark reading “J WHAT,” for J Whatman, the manufacturer, reads from the textured side, indicating the side intended for painting.

Currently Off View

Prints and Drawings

Artist

Winslow Homer

Title

The Water Fan

Origin

United States

Date

1898–1899

Medium

Watercolor, with blotting and touches of scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough twill-textured, ivory wove paper

Inscriptions

Signed recto, lower right, in brush and black watercolor: "Homer" Inscribed verso, lower left edge, in graphite: "7073"; upper center, in graphite: "The Water Glass/Nassau"

Dimensions

374 x 534 mm

Credit Line

Gift of Dorothy A., John A., Jr., and Christopher Holabird in memory of William and Mary Holabird

Reference Number

1972.190

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

Share

Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions

Share