Dayton Art Institute Opens Exhibition of Winslow Homer Illustrations

The Dayton Art Institute presents From Romance to Rifles: Winslow Homer’s Illustrations of 19th-Century America, on view June 25 – October 2, 2011.

Winslow Homer is best known as a great American painter, but he was also a prolific and expert wood engraver. Most of Homer’s engravings were published in Harper’s Weekly where Homer worked as a freelance illustrator between 1857 and 1876 before his career as a painter was fully launched. According to Philp C. Beam, noted Homer scholar, Homer was the “leading designer of wood engravings of his day, and that many of the engravings are now loved and admired as masterpieces of their kind” and that “At their best they rank with his watercolors and oils for style and beauty.”

The Army of the Potomac – A Sharp Shooter on Picket Duty, 1862, is typical of Homer’s extraordinary sense of design. Here, he captures the drama of a moment during the Civil War, while at the same time he creates a design of intense movement and clarity. With his ability to convey emotion as well as information, Homer was an artist who routinely made illustration and art indistinguishable pursuits.

The Dayton Art Institute is proud to present a broad selection of Homer wood engravings from a private collection in Dayton. These images show how Homer had his finger on the pulse of American life and his eye on the American scene in an unexcelled fashion during a vibrant and important time in our national life, the years just before and after the Civil War. The show features more than 50 engravings, and it gives delightful and entertaining insights into what people felt and did on street corners, in parks, and on the battlefields. For a fresh, intimate and thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into 19th-century America, there are few better sources of our visible history.

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