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Homer and Sargent at the Clark

Post #1240 • October 1, 2008, 2:02 PM • 10 Comments

Williamstown, MA - I don't have my copy of The Art Spirit handy, so I'll have to paraphrase Robert Henri, who said (roughly) that the spiritual is not always seen through a mist. So to complement Like Breath on Glass, the Clark has installed its works by Homer and Sargent in its new, and lovely, Tadao Ando-designed outbuilding. Sargent, who is represented in Breath with a gauzy view of a Parisian promenade, went on to develop a crisper style that took advantage of his preternatural ability to lay down decisive brushstrokes. Working orthogonally to the soft painting vogue, Winslow Homer wanted to fix things onto the canvas. One painting of a couple of woodsmen shows one of them resting an ax on his shoulder, with the handle pointed as close to the viewer's line of sight as could still be called perspectival. Homer shines later in life when he figures out how to let some of the details go, but he maintains precision of shape even when painting the blasting plumes of surf at Prout's Neck. The museum could have called this show Like Knife on Wood. In any case it's a bracing contrast to the mists in the main building.

Winslow Homer: Saco Bay, 1896, oil on canvas, 23 7/8 x 37 inches, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

John Singer Sargent: Fumée d'ambre gris (Smoke of Ambergris), 1880, oil on canvas, 54 3/4 x 35 5/8 inches, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Winslow Homer: Undertow, 1886, oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 47 5/8 inches, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts




October 1, 2008, 4:30 PM

difficult to give a fair assessment from this digital image, but i am guessing that "saco bay" is a real winner



October 1, 2008, 4:49 PM

I love these paintings. Just beautiful. The same goes for inness. Great job Franklin.



October 1, 2008, 8:05 PM

Seeing these images on-screen must equate to 'hearing about them' over a hundred years ago. Certainly still makes one want to see them in REAL LIFE.

I suspect the reduction in scale tightens everything up - like seeing a surfer far away from the beach making it look easy....



October 1, 2008, 10:36 PM

Case in point


John S

October 2, 2008, 11:25 AM

seeing a show of Homer when I was a wee lad, solidified my want to paint


John S.

October 2, 2008, 11:32 AM

Franklin is the book for the Breath show worth owning?



October 2, 2008, 11:24 PM

We must have crossed paths. I just saw this show two days ago. Stunner. In Vermont now. Hope you're enjoying your trip.


Bunny Smedley

October 3, 2008, 1:16 AM

There was a fantastic show called 'Winslow Homer: Poet of the Sea' at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London a couple of years ago.

Even for someone who'd seen some of his work before, it was amazing to see how well his paintings could 'stand up' against the Old Masters (Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin etc) that make up the permanent collection there. At his best he is, by any standard, a great painter.



October 4, 2008, 11:10 AM

John S., the catalogue is well worth owning. Chris, sorry to miss you - we need to catch up.



October 5, 2008, 5:34 PM

My wife & I went to see a big Eakins show at the Met some years ago and found ourselves disappointed. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but the work seemed stiff and flavorless, not bad, of course, but except for some of the sculling pix and a few others not really the thrill we expected.

To test our eyes of the moment, to see if we were just not in an art-seeing mood, we went around the corner to examine a couple of Homer oils. One or two were seascapes, and one was that wonderful man with a scyth in a wheatfield. They were so good!

Something similar happened with the Sargent show up in Boston years go. I got the feeling that his extreme skill made him a little impatient sometimes.

I saw the Morandi show at the met a few days ago. It was a little too large and could have been lit better but the pictures are wonderful. There is also a killer catalog.



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