Lot 18
  • 18

Winslow Homer 1836-1910

bidding is closed


  • Winslow Homer
  • In the Garden
  • signed Homer and dated 1874, l.r.
  • watercolor and gouache on paper
  • 9 by 6 3/4 in. (22.9 by 17.1 cm)


Samuel P. Avery (sold: Clinton Hall Sale Rooms, Messers. Leavitt, Auctioneers, New York, May 11, 1876)
(probably) J.H. Stedwell (acquired at the above sale)
Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose Topping, New York
Mabel Gardiner Adams
Lawrence Babcock
Nita Babcock (his wife)
Robert Keene Bookshop and Gallery, Southampton, New York
Collection of Arthur G. Altschul, New York, 1964 (acquired from the above)
By bequest to the present owner, Mrs. Arthur G. Altschul (his wife)


(probably) New York, The Century Association, November 1874
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 200 Years of Watercolor Painting in America, December 1966-January 1967, no. 68, p. 16
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Winslow Homer, April-June 1973, no. 79, p. 137
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, pp. 28, 29, 40, 50 n.32, 69, 245, illustrated in color p. 30, fig. 16
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. 50, pp. 119, 408, illustrated in color p. 119


John Wilmerding, Winslow Homer, New York, 1972, no. 20, p. 129, illustrated in color p. 128
Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., American Master Drawings and Watercolors, New York, 1976, p. 169
Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Winslow Homer, New York, 1979, p. 290
Winslow Homer in the 1870s: Selections from the Valentine-Pulsifer Collection, Princeton, New Jersey, The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1990, p. 64, illustrated fig. 3
Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Winslow Homer Watercolors, New York, 1991, p. 10, illustrated in color p. 28, pl. 13
May Brawley Hill, Grandmother's Garden: The Old-Fashioned American Garden 1865-1915, New York, 1995, illustrated p. 31
Judith Walsh, "The language of flowers and other floral symbolism used by Winslow Homer," The Magazine Antiques, November 1999, p. 714, illustrated p. 713, pl. VIII
Miles Unger, The Watercolors of Winslow Homer, New York, 2001, illustrated in color p. 58
Winslow Homer and the Critics: Forging a National Art in the 1870s, Kansas City, Missouri, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 2001, p. 104, illustrated p. 105, fig. 81
Elizabeth Johns, Ph.D., Winslow Homer and the Nature of Observation, Berkeley, California, 2002, illustrated in color pl. 11

Catalogue Note

Winslow Homer is widely recognized as one of America’s foremost artists of the 19th century, and his watercolors rank among the greatest achievements in American art.  Painted in 1874, In the Garden is a beautiful example of the artist’s early forays into this newfound medium for which he would become highly renowned.  Delighted with the technical possibilities of watercolor and the spontaneity and fluidity of line it afforded, Homer’s vision flourished in innovative directions.  He had already achieved considerable recognition for his work in oil when, in the summer of 1873 during a holiday in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Homer first applied himself seriously to painting in watercolor.  Lloyd Goodrich summarized his early achievement in the medium writing, “Among all Homer’s works these first watercolors have a special quality.  Evidently done on the spot and not subsequently worked over, they are reality seen with a fresh, clear eye and recorded without hesitation or after-thoughts.  To the innocent vision shown in his oils they added a new keenness and spontaneity, and a brevity that knew when to stop” (Winslow Homer, New York, 1944, p. 46). 

In the summer of 1874, Homer visited Lawson Valentine in Walden, New York where Valentine had rented a house for the season.  Helen A. Cooper writes, “At Walden he painted young men and women in scenes of farm life.  . . . all are subtle in design, finely drawn, especially in the faces and heads, and animated throughout by short brushstrokes, highlighted with touches of gouache, and full of gold and amber colors.   . . . In the Garden, executed largely in single washes of transparent colors, shows Homer’s early approaches to the medium.  The figure of the young woman in a glowing pink dress is carefully painted and the details of her flower-sprigged costume are clearly articulated.  The landscape background is achieved through small pools of wash that were sponged in certain areas and lifted out in others.  In the foliage, he employed simple complimentary colors to intensify the effect—strokes of red on green, blue on yellow, and purple on green” (Winslow Homer Watercolors, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1986, pp. 27, 28).  The contrast between the precise rendering of the figure and the loose, impressionistic brushstrokes of the background, results in a delicate and richly textured surface that exemplifies Homer’s intrinsic affinity for the watercolor medium.  Its portable, flexible and quick-drying qualities facilitated a plein-air method of working, which resulted in straightforward pictures devoid of pretense or overt sentimentality such as In the Garden.  Homer was evidently pleased with the model for this watercolor as she reappears in a number of later works, including Milking Time (figure 1), an oil of 1875, and an 1878 watercolor The Milk Maid (figure 2).

Watercolor became increasing popular during the early 1870s, largely due to the persistent efforts of the American Society of Painters in Water Colors.  Its sponsorship of an unprecedented international exhibition of nearly six hundred European and American watercolors and drawings at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1873 firmly established the credibility of the medium and encouraged many young artists.  Robert Hughes also attributes the proliferation of watercolor to Homer’s success in the medium, writing, “He was a master of watercolor.  Indeed, it was largely due to Homer that watercolor found its place as an important medium in nineteenth-century American art.  In structure and intensity, his best watercolors yield nothing to his larger paintings.  Watercolor is tricky stuff, reputedly an amateur’s but really a virtuoso’s medium.  It is the most light-filled of all ways of painting, but it’s luminosity depends on the white of the paper shining through thin washes of pigment” (American Visions, New York, 1997, p. 315).