Lea Wait, here. Shadows of a Down East Summer, the most recent in my contemporary Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, has a surprise character:
Lea Wait’s Shadows of a Down East Summer
Winslow Homer. Just for fun, see how you do on this shrt quiz about him and his life. (Hint: more than one answer may be correct.)
1. Winslow Homer was a) an artist; b) a sculptor; c) a journalist;d) a hermit.
2) Homer lived in a) Massachusetts; b) New York City; c) the Adirondacks; d) Maine.
3) Homer died in a) 1880; b) 1890; c) 1900; d) 1910.
4) He painted in a) the United States; b) England; c) France; d) Cuba.
5) Homer is best known for his work depicting a) the sea; b) African Americans in Virginia; c) the Caribbean; d) every day life.
True or False:
6) Homer grew up in an affluent family.
7) Homer studied under some of the best artists of his day.
8) Homer served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
9) Homer married his childhood sweetheart and had three children, one of whom also became an artist.
10) Homer was the greatest American artist of the 19th century.
1) a) and c) are correct. Homer was a professional artist from the time he was 19, and during the Civil War was a “special artist” and reporter for Harper’s Weekly.
Although he preferred to spend his time painting, not talking, he had many friends and was well respected in his community.
2) All are correct. Born in Massachusetts, Homer lived in all those places at different times.
3) d) He died in his studio at Prouts Neck in 1910.
4) All are correct. Although most of his work was done in the United States, he also
traveled and painted in other countries.
5) a) Homer is most remembered for his seascapes, although they represent only a small percentage of his work.
6) False. Homer’s family was poor. His father went bankrupt several times and then left for California during the Gold Rush. He returned home destitute.
7) False. He appenticed to a lithographer when in his teens and took a few art lessons when he lived in New York City, but was essentially self-taught.
8) False. Homer worked for Harper’s Weekly (newspaper) during the Civil War, following the Army of the Potomac.
9) False. Homer never married, nor is he known to have fathered any children.
On the Beach at Long Branch - The Children's Hour
Because I’m an antique print dealer who’s specialized in the wood engravings Winslow Homer did for Harper’s and other publications from 1958 until 1874 (when he turned full-time to oils and water colors,) Homer’s early work has been a part of my life for many years. These engravings are different from his later dramatic paitnings. They are, instead, an intimate record of every day life in mid-19th century America.
Homer’s sense of humor (a man trying to scare a woman on a beach by thrusting a lobster at her; a man’s hat skewered by an unexploded firework) is wonderful. His sense of social commentary (women and children filing into a Massachusetts mill to work; a married man flirting with a girl in church labeled “Tenth Commandment”) is biting.
In Shadows of a Down East Summer I picture a slice of Homer’s life: the summer of 1890. He is 54 and living in Prouts Neck, a section of Scarborough, Maine, just south of Portland. He hired two young Maine women to pose for him. Part of the action takes place at the South Gate House, a large elegant hotel now called the Black Point Inn.
South Gate House, Prouts Neck, 1890
My book is, of course, fiction. My Anna May and Jessie did not pose for Homer, although two other young women did. But the description of Homer’s studio, attire, deportment, and strange pets that summer is, by all accounts that I can find, accurate.
And for the time that I was writing, and perhaps the time that you are reading, Shadows of a Down East Summer, Homer and his studio could come to life once more. I hope so.