SY 2017/2018: Fine Arts Second Semester (Art)

The Second Semester of Fine Arts for the SY 2017/2018 consists of an 18 week art history study of Winslow Homer and watercolor techniques. The First Semester of Fine Arts (Music) is also an 18 week study and thus together make a year’s study of Fine Arts.

Winslow Homer
February 24, 1836 – September 29, 1910

Winslow Homer, an American landscape painter and printmaker is best known for his marine subjects,  he is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th-centuryWinslow_Homer_by_Sarony America.  His genre of art is called pastoralism and realism. He is self-taught and began his career working as a commercial illustrator. He began oil painting and produced major studio works characterized by weight and density. He then moved onto working extensively in watercolor. Homer was very private about his personal life and his methods, but he clearly had independence of style and a devotion to American subjects. His impact in the art world was revolutionary.

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1836 and is the second of three sons of Charles Savage Homer and Henrietta Benson Homer.  He grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had a happy childhood and was an average student in school; however, his art talent was very evident.

After his graduation from high school graduation, his father arranged for an apprenticeship to J. H. Bufford, a Boston commercial lithographer where he worked on sheet music covers and other commercial work. In 1857, he began a freelance career contributing illustrations of Boston life and rural New England life to magazines such as Ballou’s Pictorial and Harper’s Weekly.

His early work consisted of commercial engravings of urban and country social scenes. These pieces were characterized by clean outlines, simplified forms, dramatic contrast of light and dark, and lively figure groupings.  These were the qualities that remained important throughout his career.  His quick success was mostly due to his strong understanding of graphic design and also to the adaptability of his designs to wood engraving.

In 1859, he opened a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City, which was considered the artistic and publishing capital of the United States. Until 1863, he attended classes at the National Academy of Design, and studied briefly with Frédéric Rondel, who taught him the basics of painting. In only about a year of self-training, Homer was producing excellent oil work.

The American Civil War had a tremendous impact on Homer’s artistic style.  Harper’s sent Homer to the front lines of the American Civil War (1861–1865) to sketch battle scenes and camp life. His initial sketches were of the camp, commanders, and army.  He turned a few of his military sketches into paintings.

After the war, Homer refocuses his artist vision. Homer turned his attention primarily to scenes of childhood and young women, reflecting nostalgia for simpler times.  Homer was also interested in postwar subject matter that conveyed the silent tension between two communities seeking to understand their future. He demonstrates a maturity of feeling, depth of perception, and mastery of technique which was immediately recognized. His realism was objective, true to nature, and emotionally controlled.

Before exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, Homer traveled to Paris, France, in 1867 where he remained for a year. His most praised early painting, Prisoners from the Front, was on exhibit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris at the same time. This was a tremendous honor.  While he did not study formally when in Paris, he practiced landscape painting  and focused on depicting scenes from Parisian life. He also continuing to work for Harper’s during this time period.

Homer became a member of The Tile Club, a group of artists and writers who met frequently to exchange ideas and organize outings for painting, as well as foster the creation of decorative tiles. For a short time, he designed tiles for fireplaces.

When he returned to the United States, Homer started painting with watercolors during his 1873  summer stay in Gloucester, Massachusetts. From the beginning, his technique was natural, fluid and confident, demonstrating his talent for a difficult medium.   Homer spent two years (1881–1882) in the English coastal village of Cullercoats, Tyne and Wear. Many of the paintings at Cullercoats took as their subjects working men and women and their daily activities.

By 1900, Homer reached financial stability.  His paintings fetched good prices from museums and he began to receive rents from real estate properties. Homer continued producing excellent watercolors, mostly on trips to Canada and the Caribbean. His late seascapes are especially valued for their dramatic and forceful expression of natures powers, and for their beauty and intensity.

Homer died in 1910 at the age of 74 in his Prouts Neck studio and was interred in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His painting, Shooting the Rapids, Saguenay River, remains unfinished.

In 1962, the U.S. Post Office released a commemorative stamp honoring Winslow Homer. Homer’s famous oil painting “Breezing Up”  was chosen as the image for the design of this issue. On August 12, 2010, The Postal Service issued a 44-cent commemorative stamp featuring Homer’s “Boys in a Pasture” at the APS Stamp Show in Richmond, Virginia.

Works To Be Studied

We will utilize the Charlotte Mason method of picture study.  This Semester in Fine Arts we will study the following seven works by Homer:

  1. Prisoners from the Front
  2. Home Sweet Home
  3. Snap the Whip
  4. The Fog Warning
  5. Deer in the Adirondacks
  6. The Fox Hunt
  7. The Turtle Pond

First introduce Winslow Homer to your children by reading the narrative above.  There is a documentary style movie made about Winslow Homer’s life, Winslow Homer: An American Original, you may want to check your local library, Amazon or Ebay to see if you can find it.  It is difficult to find because it is out of print.  Also, discuss the historical events that unfolded during the artist’s life. In the case of Homer, the American Civil War. Discuss the type of  personality Winslow Homer had and if it had any impact upon the subject of his works or the medium he used.

For each piece of work ask the children to find the artists signature.  Discuss what the work shows and why they think the artists choose to create the work. Discuss the background information, if available of each piece.  Discuss the medium used to make the work — watercolor, oil pastel, pencil, etc. Discuss the color palette of the work. Be sure to place the work in a prominent place in your house where they can see it each day.  (In our house it’s hung on the refrigerator.) Allow your children to view the work until they can see it in their mind’s eye and describe it to you without looking at it. Display and discuss one work per week of the semester. At a minimum, the picture study component of this semester of Fine Arts should take seven weeks.


These resources should be completed prior to the end of this semester of Fine Arts. My children will complete one activity per week. Thus, taking ten weeks to complete.

  1. Video:  Winslow Homer: An American Artist
  2. Video:  Winslow Homer’s America
  3. Video:  Winslow Homer Art History Lectures Part 1, Part 2
  4. Activity (with Video):  How to Clean Watercolor Brushes
  5. Activity (with Video):  Watercolor Techniques
  6. Activity (with Video): Painting Like Homer
  7. Activity (with Video:  How to Paint a Simple Landscape in Watercolor
  8. Vocabulary for Fine Arts Second Semester (Art)
  9. Homer Notebooking Page
  10. Quizlet to Study Vocabulary and Works

Second Semester Fine Arts (Art) Examination & Grading

In order to issue a grade for my children for the second semester of fine arts in art, I evaluate and issue a grade for the notebooking page completed. I will also give my children the Fine Arts Second Semester Examination (Art) on the last week of the course. Alternatively , the Quizlet can be used to generate an examination which is automatically graded. The final grade of this semester is determined by averaging the notebooking grade with the examination.


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