ProvenanceLawson Valentine, purchased from the artist in 1879
Elmira Houghton Valentine (Mrs. N.T.) Pulsifer, by descent from above
Natalie Pulsifer Byles and Alice Pulsifer, by descent from above
Davis & Long Company, New York
Private Collection, California, acquired from the above, 1977
Winslow Homer: Presence of Nature
One of the most influential and important artist, Winslow Homer was born in Boston in 1836. He is considered one of the greatest of American realists in the 19th century and although he never formerly learned or aligned with any of the major movements like the Barbizon School, his influence and recognition is widespread, and his process marked a turn away from the divinely infused works of earlier landscape artists.
Homer created this work in 1879, a time in which he focused mainly on idyllic landscapes, images of children, and young adults in oils and watercolor. During this period, he became a member of The Tile Club, a group of artists that discussed ideas and organized painting excursions. Other members included William Merritt Chase.
The Shepherdess was a theme he returned to multiple times as it allowed him to depict pastoral landscapes, grounded by young women. While beautiful, we can also sense the work and labor involved in the rural setting, the solitary figure set off by shades of green and dappled spots of reds and oranges. Much like Rembrandt and other Old Master painters, Homer imbues his subject with emotional content and personality.
The 1870s would be a crucial time for Homer as he stepped away from illustration into new experiments in form and medium. Between 1873-1905, Homer created nearly 700 watercolors. Nearly all of his works from the Reconstruction era South are in museum collections, testament to their importance. As Home himself noted, “You will see, in the future I will live by my watercolors.”