Lot 17
  • 17

Winslow Homer 1836-1910

bidding is closed


  • Winslow Homer
  • Spring
  • signed Homer and dated 1878, l.r.

  • watercolor and pencil on paper


Charles T. Barney, New York, circa 1878 (probably acquired directly from the artist)
Mrs. H.F. Dimock (his sister), Washington, D.C.
Ashbel H. Barney (her nephew, Charles T. Barney's son), New York
M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Mrs. Barklie McKee Henry (later Mrs. Samuel A. Peck, later Mrs. George W. Headley, Ashbel H. Barney’s cousin), New York, circa 1940
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York
Acquired from the above, 1966


New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Winslow Homer Centenary Exhibition, December 1936-January 1937, no. 47, p. 24, illustrated
Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Walker Art Center; Detroit, Michigan, The Detroit Institute of Arts; Brooklyn, New York, The Brooklyn Museum, American Watercolor and Winslow Homer, February-June 1945, pp. 26, 107, illustrated
New York, Maynard Walker Gallery, Early Winslow Homer, October-November 1953, no. 14
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Winslow Homer: A Retrospective Exhibition, November 1958-March 1959, no. 93, p. 122, illustrated p. 48
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 200 Years of Watercolor Painting in American: An Exhibition Commemorating the Centennial of the American Watercolor Society, December 1966-January 1967, no. 69, p. 16
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, Winslow Homer, April-October 1973, no. 88, p. 138, illustrated in color p. 84
Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum, American Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings from the Collection of Rita and Daniel Fraad, May-July 1985, no. 4, pp. xi, 8, 10, illustrated in color p. 9
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum; New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Art Gallery, Winslow Homer Watercolors, March-November 1986, no. 45, pp. 58, 246, illustrated in color p. 59
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Winslow Homer, October 1995-September 1996, no. 97, p. 166, illustrated in color


Albert Ten Eyck Gardner, Winslow Homer, American Artist: His Life and Work, New York, 1961, p. 120, illustrated
Lloyd Goodrich, Winslow Homer, New York, 1944, illustrated p. 18
“Winslow Homer in New York State,” Art in America, April 1964, p. 82, illustrated
John Wilmerding, “The Last Winslow Homer Show?” American Art Review, September-October 1973, p. 62, illustrated
Doreen Bolger and Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., eds., American Art Around 1900: Lectures in Memory of Daniel Fraad, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1990, illustrated p. 102, fig. 16, also illustrated in color p. 92 (detail)
Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Winslow Homer, New York, 1990, p. 66, illustrated in color p. 67
Winslow Homer in the 1870s: Selections from the Valentine-Pulsifer Collection, Princeton, New Jersey, The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1990, p. 60, illustrated p. 62, fig. 2
Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Winslow Homer Watercolors, New York, 1991, p. 11, illustrated in color p. 32, pl. 18

Catalogue Note

Winslow Homer spent the summer and fall of 1878 at Houghton Farm, the country home of his friend and patron, Lawson Valentine.  Located near Mountainville, New York, Houghton Farm embodied the timeless nature of rural life in America that captured Homer’s imagination during this period.  Spring is a charming example of the watercolors the artist produced during this particularly prolific time. 

Homer returned to New York with a portfolio of images of children on the farm, about which a contemporary critic wrote, “To Mr. Homer belongs the distinction of having discovered the American shepherdess and introduced her to the public in studies that are more essentially and distinctively pastoral than any American artist has yet attempted” (Winslow Homer, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1996, p. 163).  According to Linda Ayres, “Spring is one of those idyllic and fresh pastoral scenes and shows a boy and a girl—Homer often depicted pairs of figures and objects—by a rail fence near a rolling blue hill.  Lawson Valentine’s daughter-in-law identified the children that Homer chose to pose for him as members of the Babcock family, squatters on nearby Schenemunk Mountain.  Dressed in work clothes, the children symbolize American rural life” (American Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings from the Collection of Rita and Daniel Fraad, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum, 1985, p. 10).  

Spring belongs to a series of four watercolors in which a girl and boy meet by a fence or stile, which Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. observes appear to relate compositionally to Degas’ ballet scenes of the mid-1870s (figures 1 & 2).  Mr. Cikovsky writes, “It is attractive to think of the boys and girls climbing fences that constitute a serial subset of the Houghton Farm watercolors as being in their natural gracefulness the rustic American counterpart of the ballet dancers that Edgar Degas made at approximately the same time.  It is interesting to know, therefore, that Degas’ Rehearsal of the Ballet was exhibited at the watercolor society exhibition in New York earlier in the same year in which Homer painted them.  Lent by Louisine Havemeyer, it was the first Degas seen in America” (Winslow Homer, 1996, p. 166).

The Houghton Farm pictures represent a new phase in the development of Homer’s watercolor style.  Helen Cooper writes about the artist’s increasing proficiency in watercolor, “Homer’s masterly handling of pigment weight and consistency and his knowing use of the paper’s texture give to even the simplest color harmonies a variety and delicacy that he had earlier attempted to achieve through spongings.  In Spring, executed on heavier, grainier watercolor stock well-suited to sketchy, atmospheric effects, he plays the young girl’s lilac-pink pinafore, with its blue and purple shadows, against the blue and yellow-greens of the landscape and the ocher tones of the fence rail and the boy’s straw hat.  The colors settled irregularly in places, trapping tiny pools of darker tint in the hollows of the paper; elsewhere, pinpricks of white glitter through, untouched by color, adding sparkle and depth to the washes” (Winslow Homer Watercolors, New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Art Gallery, 1986, p. 58).