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Breezing Up by Winslow Homer

Breezing Up by Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer was an American landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his marine subjects. He is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th century America. His mother was a gifted amateur watercolorist and Homer's first teacher. He began his career working as a commercial illustrator. He subsequently took up oil painting and produced major studio works. He also worked extensively in watercolor. Homer opened his own studio and sold his drawings. In 1873 Homer moved to Maine where he loved to paint the ocean. His seascape 'Breezing Up', Homer's iconic painting of a father and three boys out for a spirited sail, received wide praise.

Questions to Ask

What is the first thing that you see? This is the focal point. The focal point is what first draws your eye, something that stands out.

What type of painting is this? This is a seascape oil painting. What is a seascape? A seascape is a painting of the sea when the subject of the sea is most important. A painting which shows the shore and sea may be a landscape.

Look at the colors Homer used in this painting. How do they make you feel? Is a storm coming up? Is there wind? Why is the water not one color? Sunlight touching the water creates the differences in color. What clues tell you there is a breeze? Look at the title, the waves, and the sails, look of the clouds and tilt of the sailboats.

What shapes do you see in the work? Hint — there are triangles of the sails and the boats. Outline the two groups of boys to discover two more triangles. What shapes are in contrast to the triangles? Hint — there are the two rectangles that create the sea and sky.

What is a horizon line? Look where the sky and sea meet. Is it below the halfway mark on the painting? Why would Homer not just paint the horizon line in the middle of the painting? The composition of the painting is more interesting when the horizon line is either below or above the middle of the work. By having it below the middle Homer has increased the distance or depth in the work and brought more attention to the first boat.

How many sailboats do you see? Are they the same size? Why not? To create a depth in a work of art artists use perspective. Note the rules of perspective, big is near, far is small, level of object on paper, low objects are closer, color and texture are less with distance.

What does the boat say on the back side? Are all the people in the boat boys? Which one is not? Why do you think they are out sailing on this day? Do you think they will be fishing? Do you feel the excitement of the experience they are having?

Activities for the Classroom

Additional Kid Friendly Resources at the AHML are "Winslow Homer" by Mike Venezia, and "A weekend with Winslow Homer" by Ann Keay Beneduce.

Play a CD of ocean sounds in the background.

Provide crayons, pastels, paints and have students create their own seascapes.

Bring in a model of a boat and ask them to draw a picture of the model.

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