Lot 38
  • 38

Winslow Homer 1836 - 1910

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
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  • Winslow Homer
  • Peach Blossoms
  • signed with the artist's initials WH and dated 1879, l.l.; also inscribed Homer / 51 West 10th St. / City and At Milford, Penn., on right side of road to Dingham Bridge, Delaware River, showing the peculiar gray-green of new wheat in early spring on the reverse

  • oil on canvas
  • 15 3/4 by 22 1/2 in.
  • (40 by 57.1 cm)


Gill's Art Galleries, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1881
George Walter Vincent Smith, Springfield, Massachusetts
James M. Thompson, Springfield, Massachusetts, by 1882
Anna Beadle Thompson (Mrs. James M. Thompson), Springfield, MA and later Baltimore, by bequest, 1884
M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1924
James A. Dunbar, New York, until 1928
M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1928
Col. Albert E. Pierce. Chicago, Illinois and Warrenton, Virginia, 1929
Kennedy Galleries, New York, by 1961
Mr. and Mrs. David T. Workman, New York
Kennedy Galleries, New York, by 1968
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1968


Springfield, Massachusetts, Gill's Art Galleries and Springfield Art Association, Fourth Annual Artists' Exhibition, February 1881, no. 30
New York, Kennedy Galleries, Thomas Hovenden and the American Genre Painters, April 1962, no. 1, p. 12, illustrated
Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Gallery Gardens, February-March 1963, no. 20
New York, Kennedy Galleries, America at Home, January 1969, no. 206, p. 236, illustrated in color
Spartanburg, South Carolina, Wofford College, The Carolinas Collect, April 1970
Washington, D.C., The National Gallery; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Winslow Homer, December 1995-September 1996, no. 100, p. 168, illustrated in color
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Reynolda House, Museum of American Art, Winslow Homer: Early Prints and Paintings, September-November 1999


"Gills Artists' Exhibition," Springfield Massachusetts Daily Republican, February 3, 1881
"Art Notes," New York Times, April 10, 1881
"Art Notes, Picture Sales of the Month," The Art Journal, May 7, 1881, p. 160
Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Work of Winslow Homer, New York, 1979, no. 121, p. 80, illustrated p. 82
Lloyd Goodrich and Abigail Booth Gerdts, Records of Works by Winslow Homer, Volume III: 1877 to March 1881, New York, 2008, no. 767, pp. 189-191, illustrated p. 189, also illustrated in color p. 443


Please contact the department at 212-606-7280 to obtain a copy of the condition report prepared by Simon Parkes Art Conservation.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Two years after Peach Blossoms was painted, Homer sent it to the Springfield Art Association's Annual Artist's exhibition. In her entry for the Homer catalogue raisonne Abigail Gerdts writes:

 "The Springfield Art Association's exhibitions were mounted in, and essentially, by Gill's Art Galleries, a pillar of Springfield's commercial community... Homer had been a regular participant from the first of these events in 1879. Of the two[MRO1]  paintings he sent for the 1881 exhibition, only Peach Blossoms did not come back to him. As the Art Journal reported:  'At Springfield, Mass., the fourth annual exhibition of paintings by New York artists was held in March, and the sale which followed was as successful as that of any previous year, excepting only that of 1880... The list of sales this year included... Winslow Homer's 'Peach Blossoms,' $200.'The buyer was neither Mr. Gill nor Mrs. Anna Thompson. It was George Walter Vincent Smith, Springfield's leading patron of the fine arts.

"The official preview reception for the Springfield Association exhibition was held 3 February 1881, the day before the public opening. However, Smith,  an important client, would have gotten to view the paintings coming into Gill's almost as soon as they arrived. A letter from Homer to Smith written from New York on the same day as the exhibition preview makes clear that he and Smith were negotiating the sale of a painting even before the show opened.
                My dear Mr. Smith,
                You certainly have a very graceful style and a way of putting
                things - I should have returned a plain offer. As it is, you may
                have the Picture & frame for the amount you offer but I
                understand that it is with Mr. Gill's consent & that you are to
                arrange with him about his commission. Thanks to you for
                your pleasant remembrances & / Believe me / Sincerely 
                yours / Winslow Homer

"That he was pursuing Peach Blossoms is demonstrated by the entry of that title with the purchase price of "200" in an 1882 inventory ledger  for Smith's collection. The entry is annotated 'S,' Smith's code for having sold a work, with the name 'Thompson.' Although he only held the painting for some part of one year, Smith[MRO2]  seems to have acquired it for himself, not as agent for James M. Thompson, another prominent citizen of Springfield" (Abigail Gerdts, Record of Works by Winslow Homer, New York, 2008, p. 190).

During the 1870's, in addition to developing a profound appreciation for the outdoors, Homer sought out sentimental subjects and symbols of simplicity that would resonate with the public. The watercolors and oils Homer completed on his visits to Houghton Farm and other rural locales focused on young girls and boys idling away the hours in spring and summer landscapes. Peach Blossoms features an elegantly dressed young girl gracefully leaning against a crumbling stonewall at the onset of spring. Beyond the stonewall, a green meadow and a blooming peach tree show traces of the season, while Homer's  grey sky and swirling clouds suggest the atmospheric effects of an oncoming storm. The young woman is clothed in a fashionable grey-white dress and gloves which seem somewhat out of character with the more rustic blue bonnet,  but all of which reflect the waning sunlight and brighten the muted composition.

In these depictions of solitary young women,  Homer routinely featured the model looking away from the viewer, face in profile and body slightly turned. The figure in Peach Blossoms seems to be lost in thought, her placid countenance and relaxed posture mirroring the peaceful landscape. But a gust of wind from the coming storm ruffles her dress and bonnet and hints at the stirring inner emotions of a young girl in the first blush of maturity.  Another slightly smaller work also entitled Peach Blossoms (1878, The Art Institute of Chicago) was painted a year before the present picture and was sold  at auction in 1880.   Homer also executed another variation on the theme in Girl with Laurel  (1879, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Dexter M. Ferry)  in which a young woman holding a basket of flowers now stands facing the brilliant sunlight in a lush landscape in full bloom.

According to Ms. Gerdts, Homer's inscription  on the stretcher 'At Milford Penn. On right side of road to Dingman Bridge, Delaware River, showing the peculiar gray-green of new wheat in Early Spring. This peach tree stands upon this spot' refers to "Milford, Pennsylvania, a summer resort community on the Delaware River, near Port Jervis on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border, much favored by writers and painters. John Ferguson Weir (among a number of Homer's New York colleagues) was a particularly constant  visitor. As later as 1882 a tourist guide book noted Homer as having been 'a steady visitor' in the area."