Homage to Winslow Homer, his great painting, The Gulf Stream

Oil sketch on canvas, 24 x 24″

Surely Homer painted one of the greatest works of art of recent times.

For me his painting epitomises the utter wretchedness and hopelessness that is the human condition.

13 Comments

  1. One of my favorites artists! As a child I spent much time visiting an aunt who lived in Scarborough, Maine not far from Homer’s studio. I hope you are doing well, Peter!

    1. Thank you so much for enquiring after my health Victoria. Yes, I am doing well, I think! OMG Winslow Homer produced great art… truly rich and relevant paintings, and I am currently reading his life-story – much of which I can identify with. My homage is just a sketch but his actual painting seems to be an expression of turbulence, the turbulence of the sea, the power of nature, contrasted with the frailty of man… I hope all is well with you too, Victoria. Best wishes to you, Peter

    1. His work is very fine and full of meaning, especially the late stuff… I have long admired him and kept returning to that image of the man, perhaps a runaway slave, clinging onto that broken boat for dear life as the waves rise and fall and as sharks circle round in the water hungry and waiting… the waterspout in the distance looks menacing and the ship on the horizon is soooo far away… reminds me of that Zen koan of the man clinging onto a plant halfway down a cliff, rocks below… the plant unable to hold his weight… what does he do? Let go! Lol !! Also that image from the John Huston film of Melville’s Moby Dick in which a dead Captain Ahab is held fast to the side of the great white whale by harpoons and ropes… Winslow Homer cut himself off from society, lived as a virtual hermit, but his art is all the deeper and more profound for that… Solitude, as Wordsworth and many others understood is a great teacher.

  2. Having lived on the Gulf Coast, near New Orleans, I too have long admired this painting & Homer generally—but this image says something a bit different to me, what you said of course, but as a kid I was awed by the sublime forces of nature, The Gulf! I only learned later that the painting was probably not in the Gulf of Mexico, certainly not off The mouth of the Mississippi, but no matter. The effect still rings in my mind & forms the background to a central event in a saga of the coast I’ve been writing forever with no « finish » in sight, doomed, I guess like the man in the painting to be at the mercy of fate no matter what my puny efforts might be. Thanks for the kick to get me musing about this.

    1. It is a fabulous painting. It speaks volumes. We get the tail end of gulf stream weather here in Ireland, but thankfully the storms we get are not as bad as the tornadoes and hurricanes of the West Indies. Homer did some great work to do with the Bahamas. I particularly like the watercolour of the hurricane he did: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11124 The man also, Winslow Homer, is an interesting character. Homer’s proposal of marriage to Helena de Kay was refused. That hurt him badly and slowly he withdrew from society. But that event only made his painting more profound… a bit like poor old Vincent van Gogh and I wonder how many other artists? And that incident with Gauguin, and the slicing off of a portion of his ear… hmmm. The Mississippi eh? That word, that river, makes me think of the Blues. Good luck with your saga of the coast, sounds intriguing!

      1. The Blues. Highway 61. Indianola. Itta Bena. Yep, know them places too damn well, I’m afraid. Beautiful people living in the American Heart of Darkness. Plantations. Catfish farms. Fertilizer plants. Poverty and music beyond belief. Whew.

      2. Legendary names… I didn’t know BB King was born in Itta Bena. So you’re an American living in France. Fascinating. I saw BB in concert in London a couple of times long ago… small world, music all the way from Mississippi to the Albert Hall, music that changed the world. Rock ‘n’ roll! Are you a writer?

      3. BB was actually born just up the road, on a plantation outside of Indianola where he played guitar and sang for nickels on the street corner when he was a kid–there’s a monument on that corner today, fashioned by a friend of ours, an artist-blues musician named Bobby Whalen who still lives there and, so far as I know, still has his band, The Ladies’ Choice, and plays clubs up and down the Delta. My grandmother–a full-blooded Irish gal named Stevie Moody–was born there, her father, Hugh Moody, was the town doctor for years, there’s even a Moody Street named in his honor. But something went awry (I never found out what!) and he took his family far from the Delta, to another Miss. town near Jackson, where my grandmother met and married a guy named Flinn (odd spelling, aren’t many Flinns, as you probably know) who, after siring my mother and two other chilluns, vanished (where to and why I never knew), leaving my grandmother to get a job as a secretary and raise em–and this was in the Depression, mind you! Anyway, yeah, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast . . . DC and I lived there for twenty years before moving to France in 2000. We did a lot of documentary work up and down the Coast in our day, sponsored a contemporary art gallery, etc. As for writing, well, I’ve written a lot but published little. I guess I can’t stay focused on one project to the exclusion of all others long enough to commit the time and energy needed for getting published–I have no connections in the literary world, so getting started is overwhelmingly chancy. I just aint got the time. DC and I enjoy what I do, though, and that’s enough. And the blog lets me toss out stories and such. Forgive the memoir. I inherited the bug for making up stuff from my Irish side, I guess. PS. We saw BB, too, at a roadhouse near Natchez called Zeke’s Place where he performed on his annual tour of blues clubs in the state to honor his origins. What a night that was! Summer, humid heat, rainy so the concert had to be done indoors, in the crowded club, two, three hundred seated shoulder to shoulder with a tiny stage in the corner–with the warm up acts, the whole evening lasted five or six hours, with BB and his band at the end. DC got a photo (had to sneak it, since BB didn’t like photos taken during performances) which I’ll post sometime soon. This must have been around 1995 or so. Remember it like it was last night!

      4. Yes, Flynn is the usual spelling of Flinn… then there is the name Finn, as in a Mickey Finn… I never came across a Moody, except in the UK… plenty of Allens and Cains and Daleys and Reynold’s… and you name it! I’ve seen my own surname spelt with a ‘y’ rather than an ‘i’ as in Robynson… but what’s in a name? Funny how frequently one comes across names that are related to the trade or profession followed by the namee! Chilluns, uh. A former neighbour was always using the term chillun… Seems you have a history… I never really looked into my own. Yes, I can see you know what you’re doing on the movie front… the opening titles of your daffodils piece were full of promise, how can I put it? professional, that’s the word. Yes, one does need connections within the literary world to have any real chance of getting published. There are so many people at it. I mean the competition is fierce. I have some small experience of the dog-eat-dog competition within the visual arts and find it not to my taste. Let them get on with it. I want no part of it. Yes, Blues Boy King… and what a band! What a line-up! I think if I’d not taken up painting / drawing and had to choose again I might seriously learn to play guitar and sing… I was in minor bands in the past, but who wasn’t? Mostly singer and rhythm guitar. I’m not into traditional Irish music at all. Some man I was working with a while back wanted me to learn the Irish bagpipes and join the local band but I resisted the temptation. I checked out your man Bobby Whalen and if it’s the same person he is on youtube…

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