Winslow Homer and the Camera

A unique exhibition explores the artist's relationship with photography and its impact on his creative process.

“The End of the Hunt,” 1892, watercolor by Winslow Homer. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.

Through October 28, 2018, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, will be exhibiting “Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting,” the first exhibition to look at the role of photography in Homer’s artistic practice.

“Jumping Trout,” 1889, watercolor, by Winslow Homer. Museum Purchase, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, Brooklyn Museum.

This first of its kind exhibition brings together more than 130 objects by the artist across all mediums, ranging from master paintings to oil studies, drawings, prints, and photographs created in the United States and during his travels to Europe and the Caribbean.

Mawson & Swan camera owned by Winslow Homer, ca. 1882. Gift of Neal Paulsen, in memory of James Ott and in honor of David James Ott ’74. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.
“Cullercoats Coble,” 1882, albumen silver print, by Winslow Homer. Private Collection, courtesy of The Strong Museum, Rochester, New York. Image courtesy of The Strong Museum, Rochester, NY
Three manikins purchased by Winslow Homer in Tynemouth, England, 1881–83, wood and cloth. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.

As one attuned to appearances and how to represent them, Homer understood that photography, as a new technology of sight, had much to reveal. This exhibition adds an important new dimension to our appreciation of this pioneering American painter, demonstrating his recognition that photography did not undermine, but instead complemented his larger artistic interests.

“Cliff at Prout’s Neck,” ca. 1885, albumen silver print by Winslow Homer. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Featuring noteworthy archival objects, such as three wooden mannequins, his palette and watercolor brushes, his walking stick and fishing net, and two of the three cameras he owned in his lifetime,the exhibition presents a full picture of the artist’s working methods.

“Winslow Homer, Charles S. Homer, Sr., and Sam at Prout’s Neck,” ca. 1884, albumen silver print, by Simon Towle. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“Winslow Homer’s Studio,” ca. 1884, albumen silver print by an unidentified photographer. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.

Homer acquired his first cameras during a two-year sojourn abroad in England, a trip he took in his mid-forties seeking a new direction in his art. Upon his return in 1882, scholars noted a demonstrable change in his style of painting and choice of subjects. Taking this shift and the artist’s penchant for experimentation across mediums as a point of departure, “Winslow Homer and the Camera” questions how new visual technology impacted the artist’s production and engagement with subjects and unveils how photography became increasingly a part of Homer’s visual investigation and broader creative practice.

“Perils of the Sea,” 1881, watercolor, by Winslow Homer. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massaschusetts. Image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA


For more inspiring stories like this one, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

Previous articlePaint Yourself Out of a Rut
Next articleRisk and Reward: Painting Outside
Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here