An 'Unfinished' Manner
Early in his career, Homer showed a keen eye for both the obvious and the subtle in an image. Art critics in Homer‚Äôs time seemed to all have a similar opinion of Homer's work, it was honest, vigorous, but seemed unfinished to their eyes. The 1860s and 1870s chronicles of Homer‚Äôs art criticism is filled with the theme of strong images and crude painting. Sometimes the critics were harsh with regards to Homer‚Äôs ‚Äėunfinished‚Äô manner and other times less so.
Fig. 2-10: Veteran in a New Field
by Winslow Homer, 1865
Metropolitan Museum of Art
An article in The Evening Post, 23 November 1865 reporting on the ‚ÄėAmerican and Foreign Art, Pictures at the Artists‚Äô Fund Society Exhibition‚Äô filed this report about Homer: We pass from Mr. Gray‚Äôs picture to stop before Mr. Winslow Homer‚Äôs ‚ÄúVeteran in a New Field,‚ÄĚ (Fig. 2-10) unfortunately placed in the corridor. Mr. Homer‚Äôs works show the force of new and young blood, a very happy superiority to the conventional, and a little of the audacity of power. One of our youngest men in art, he has produced pictures characterized by greater vigor and largeness of manner than any of our figure painters, and although simply seizing upon the obvious and characteristic of nature, he has done his work so frankly that its merits have been welcomed and its faults overlooked. ‚Ä¶ The picture is without any delicate or refined qualities of color, without any gradation in form; it is even called a large sketch by those who insist upon finish and minuteness of touch in the delineation of nature. But this picture, apparently so rude and slight is a powerful piece of work, and deficient only in the rendering of parts. ‚Ä¶ Homer does not make his picture out of parts, but he sees it as a whole, and then he finds the details, and he often finds them only to overlook them. This manner of painting is healthy and manly, and to master it one must be emancipated from the minute and unemotional style of a Meissonier; one must use nature, and not enslave themselves to the letter of the law. As a matter of study it would be well for Mr. Homer to paint heads, life-size, and thus correct the coarse sweep of his brush, and refine his vigor of execution. For simple capacity to paint we know of no young painter who shows such striking power, and we hope to see his next work not less broad and confident, but a little more delicate in execution (2.22).