Lot 27
  • 27

Winslow Homer 1836 - 1910

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Winslow Homer
  • In Charge of Baby
  • Signed Homer and dated 73 (upper left); also signed Homer and dated 1873 (lower left beneath the mat)
  • Watercolor on paper
  • 8 1/2 by 13 1/2 in.
  • 21.6 by 34.3 cm
  • Executed in 1873. Please note that in the print catalogue for this sale, this lot appears as number 27T.


Sale: National Academy of Design, New York, Collection of Works of Art Contributed by the members and other donors, to the fund for the payment of the mortgage debt of the Academy, December 21, 1875, lot 15
Alfred Wilkinson, Syracuse, New York, circa 1875 (probably acquired at the above sale)
Josephine May Wilkinson and Katharine May Wilkinson, New York, before 1935 (his daughters)
Wildenstein & Co., New York, by 1948
Caroline Ryan Foulke, New York, 1953 (and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, May 28, 1987, lot 5)
Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


Brooklyn Art Association, First Annual Exhibition of the American Society of Painters in Water Colors Held at the Galleries of the Brooklyn Art Association, March 1875, no. 332/553
Louisville, Kentucky, Louisville Industrial Exposition, September 1875, no. 174
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Oils and Watercolors by Winslow Homer, October-November 1944
Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Art Museum, Winslow Homer, November-December 1944, no. 18
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Walker Art Center; Detroit Institute of Arts; Brooklyn Museum; San Francisco, California, M.H. De Young Memorial Museum, American Watercolor and Winslow Homer, February-August 1945
Houston, Texas, Allied Arts Association Annual Art Festival, Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings by Winslow Homer, 1836 - 1910, November 1952, no. 14
Chicago, Illinois, Terra Museum of American Art, Winslow Homer in Gloucester, October-December 1990, no. 8, pp. 40, 103, illustrated pl. 11, p. 72
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. 70, p. 138, illustrated
Kansas City, Missouri, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Winslow Homer and the Critics: Forging a National Art in the 1870s, February-May 2001, pp. 70, 207, 222n.4, illustrated fig. 50, p. 69


“Fine Arts. Exhibition at the Academy of Design,” The New-York Times, December 16, 1875, p. 4
“Sale of Paintings,” The New-York Times, December 22, 1875, p. 4
Lloyd Goodrich, Winslow Homer, New York, 1959, pp. 20, 114, illustrated fig. 19 (as In Charge of the Baby)
Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Winslow Homer Watercolors, New York, 1991, pp. 8, 9, illustrated pl. 11, p. 27 (as In Charge of the Baby)
Miles Unger, The Watercolors of Winslow Homer, New York, 2001, illustrated p. 43
Lloyd Goodrich and Abigail Booth Gerdts, Record of Works by Winslow Homer, New York, 2005, vol. II, no. 460, p. 238, illustrated; also illustrated p. 476


Please contact the American Art Department at (212) 606-7280 for the condition report for this lot.
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

Winslow Homer spent the summer of 1873 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, at that time one of the busiest fishing ports in the nation.  His rooms at the Atlantic House placed him in the center of the community, overlooking the Town Landing and the bustling activity on the wharves.  Painted during this stay in Gloucester, In Charge of Baby dates from a pivotal point in Homer’s career, a summer that resulted in some of the most important developments in his artistic technique. According to Helen Cooper, “The Gloucester watercolors established what would be, with few exceptions, Homer’s lifelong pattern in watercolor: concentrating for a particular period of time on a single theme suggested by a particular locale. His interest would last for the duration of his stay; on returning to his studio he would put the subject aside, often developing the idea further on subsequent visits” (Winslow Homer Watercolors, New Haven, Connecticut, 1986, pp. 24-25).

The summer of 1873 was the first period in which Homer seriously pursued painting in watercolor, a medium which readily lent itself to the fresh, spontaneous portrayal of children at play on the docks and local beaches of Gloucester. In Charge of Baby exemplifies Homer’s primary theme of that summer, combining his deep-rooted passion for the out-of-doors with his desire to explore technical concerns in painting. Even at this early point in his watercolor career, Homer’s clear draftsmanship and controlled manipulation of a high-keyed palette are evident in the present work, in which bold patterns of light and dark play across the sheet, with the pier supports framing the central composition and the dock providing a high horizon line.  Like Homer’s In Charge of Baby, Mary Cassatt’s The Boating Party is a fresh interpretation of a classic genre scene.  Using strong linear elements to formally define the space and unconventional flattening of the picture plane, both Homer and Cassatt offer a distinctly modern view of a sun-filled, leisurely day at the shore.

The increasing popularity of watercolor in the 1870s was largely due to the efforts of the American Society of Painters in Water Colors. Its sponsorship of an unprecedented international exhibition in 1872 firmly established the credibility of the watercolor medium and encouraged many young artists to explore its possibilities. Lloyd Goodrich observes, “The medium suited Homer perfectly from the first. He was essentially a draftsman and an observer of the outdoor world, and in watercolor he could work direct from nature, proceeding from a pencil sketch to a finished picture in color in one sitting. In watercolor he made the discoveries—of places, subjects, light, color—that he later embodied in his oils. The transparency of the medium, with the white paper showing through, made an immediate difference in his color. His early oils had been comparatively dark; in watercolor he at once achieved more luminosity. His swift, skillful draftsmanship, learned in years of illustrating, had full scope in watercolor. The combined freshness and sureness of his watercolor handling anticipated the later development of his painting style” (Winslow Homer, New York, 1959, p. 20).

The portability, flexibility and quick-drying quality of watercolor facilitated a plein-air method of working, which resulted in straightforward pictures devoid of pretense or overt sentimentality. As Dr. Cooper notes, “Throughout the 1870s, Homer’s subject matter embodied the ideal of simple and reassuring pleasures in union with nature itself. The Gloucester watercolors expanded on a theme Homer had touched on only occasionally in his paintings—that of rural childhood. …At Gloucester, and for some years afterward, children figured prominently in his compositions. The novelty of watercolor as a medium for artistic expression may have suggested to Homer the need for a fresh subject as well” (Winslow Homer Watercolors, p. 25). Homer’s obvious delight in the freedom watercolor provided and the freshness of vision it could convey is palpable in the first series of Gloucester watercolors and brought him almost instant acclaim. His watercolors have “been ranked among the greatest achievements in American art” (ibid., p. 16).