To become familiar with Winslow Homer, a Maine artist;To look at Homer’s work as a way to inform and inspire your work work.
"Boy in a Boatyard" by Winslow Homer, 1873, watercolor
- Describe as much as you can about the artwork (over the phone to someone who has not seen the painting). What is happening? How many people and/or animals are in it and what are they doing? Describe any buildings that you see. What time of day is it? What colors are used?
It is a sunny day, maybe around noon because the shadows are very small. In the background the sky is very, very bright blue. There’s a building covered in shingles behind the boy with a bunch of wooden barrels in front of it. Some of the barrels are upright and others are on their side. There’s a large, grey, wooden door in the wall of the building. There’s a dry dock with more barrels under it. Leaning against the barrels there’s a large white sail attached to a mast. The sail is draped on the ground and the boy is sitting partially in one of the barrels and under the sail. The boy is wearing pants, and white-ish shirt and a brown vest. He has a straw hat and is barefoot. The ground in the painting is mostly dirt with a bit of grass in the lower left-hand corner.
- Point of interest/Composition – What attracts your eye first? Where is it located? How does Homer draw your attention to this area? (color contrasts, lines, location, changes in pattern, etc.)
The thing that pulls our attention is the sail with the boy underneath it. This area draws our attention because it’s a different color than the rest of the painting (it is bright white while the rest of the painting is duller colors), and also very large. Additionally, it’s located in the center of the painting, and in the foreground.
- Balance - Is there symmetrical or asymmetrical balance? Explain...
The painting has symmetrical balance. The right side of the painting has some large objects, and the left side has more, smaller objects, which balance each other out. Also, the sail is horizontal and crosses most of the painting, and the boy is sitting in the middle.
- Depth/Perspective- Is there a horizon line? What is in the foreground, middleground, and background? Is the background very deep and far away or is this painting shallow and close up? How do you know; describe it.
In the foreground, there is a boy tucked under a sail, positioned in and around barrels. This is the main part of the painting. In the middleground, there are more barrels and a building. The background of the painting has a few more barrels and also a long wooden dock. Even further back is the sky. The horizon line is about where the dock is. The painting is deep, because the objects in the background of the painting (barrels and dock) get very small very quickly, as they get farther from the viewer. Also, as you go back in the painting, the objects become less clear, for example the boat on the dock is just a dark shape with no detail.
- Mood – What are the feelings, emotions and/or mood you get when you look at this painting? How do the colors, lines, brushstrokes, composition, subject matter contribute to the mood?
It looks like summer, and a very hot day because the sky in the background is bright blue and the painting looks very sunny, with a lot of light and not too many shadows. So it makes me think of a hot summer day. Also, the boy has taken shelter in the shade of the sail, which makes it seem like a very hot day, and indicates that the boy would rather be somewhere cool. Homer uses brushstrokes that aren’t very visible to make the painting look as real as possible, and he uses dull colors. This helps convey the heat and dryness of the day and exasperation of the boy.
- Interpret - Now that you have looked closely at the artwork and have read the title, describe the story of the painting. What do you think Homer was trying to communicate?
The painting is about a boy who works at a boathouse. He is sitting outside under a sail on a very hot summer day to get some shade, and would much rather be somewhere else than working in the heat. Homer was trying to communicate the exhaustion of boatyard workers in the heat of summer.