Watching the Shot - a painting by Winslow Homer

Historical Clues: Possible Provenance

Watching the Shot

Possible Provenance

Watching the Shot was found at an antique store in Santa Monica, California in 2003. The dealer told the buyer that he had gotten the work at the Pasadena Rose Bowl flea market a year earlier. He was told by the flea market booth where he purchased the painting from that it was a local estate that the painting had come from. No other information is known. The distance from New York to Pasadena, California was a very great distance to travel in 1866, the year Watching the Shot was sold at auction. Especially when one considers that travel was by train, ship and/or horse drawn carriage, it seems difficult to connect the two cities, let alone determine how a lost Homer painting traveled so far from New York. However, there is one documented connection that Homer had, albeit indirectly, with Pasadena.

When Homer first moved to New York in the autumn of 1859 he moved into Mrs. Alexander Cushman’s boarding house on the recommendation of the Howland brothers who also lived in the Cushman boarding house. Homer had known the brothers in Boston (5.11).  Alfred Cornelius Howland was the younger of the two brothers and an artist himself. It was Alfred who introduced Homer to the Antique School of the National Academy of Design, and subsequently went to art school with Homer. Homer drew and painted several watercolors of his friend. According to the official Homer raisonne; In his later years Howland wintered in Pasadena, California, and it was there he died (5.12). It is entirely possible that Howland either purchased Watching the Shot at the 1866 auction, or it was given to him as a gift from Homer. It is also possible that Alfred’s older brother Henry, may have bought the painting and sent it to Alfred in Pasadena. Henry became very wealthy later in life and at one point commissioned Homer to paint a portrait of his elder son (book 3: No. 642 in the Homer raisonne) (5.13). There remains a clearly documented connection from Homer in New York City to Pasadena, California in the 19th century. There are other possibilities of course, and so we may never know how the work got from a New York auction house to California. And yet clearly it did!

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