cover image Winslow Homer: American Passage

Winslow Homer: American Passage

William R. Cross. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40 (560p) ISBN 978-0-374-60379-3

Vivid storytelling melds with exuberant analysis in this sweeping look at a canonical American artist’s vibrant life. Art curator Cross (Homer at the Beach) delves into the world of Winslow Homer (1836–1910), a painter whose “search for balance, order, and beauty amid the conflicts he confronted,” Cross argues, imbued him with a canny ability to capture both the experiences of “ordinary people” and “powerful forces of nature.” Drawing from letters, diaries of friends, and published interviews, Cross follows Homer’s artistic quest—from his early commercial pictorial wood print drawings in the mid-1850s to the solemn portraits he published in Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War, to the vivid rendering of natural landscapes that became synonymous with his name. Cross draws insightful connections between Homer’s life events and his works—citing, in one example, his “mother’s declining health” as being responsible for the “mortal themes” present in such famous works as his “American masterpiece,” The Life Line (1884). No stone in Homer’s life is left unturned nor brushstroke of deliberately placed light left unexplored under Cross’s meticulous eye. While occasionally dense, the rich descriptions and reproductions of Homer’s art will beckon readers along. Art connoisseurs will want to make room on their shelves for this definitive guide to a great American artist. (Apr.)