American Art · American Art of the Week · Art History

American Art of the Week: The Milkmaid by Winslow Homer

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The Milkmaid (1878) by Winslow Homer National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.
I think we’ve established my great love of the American Impressionists in recent weeks, so it’s time for something different. Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was a nineteenth-century American painter who worked in a more naturalistic style. He painted many New England landscapes, seascapes, and scenes of rural life. In the last category, he reminds me slightly of French realists like Gustav Courbet, though his style is more painterly and his tone less bleak. Homer is one of the iconic artists of nineteenth-century America.

It was the lovely pink of the dress worn by the titular Milkmaid that attracted me to this watercolor. I’m glad it did, because once I went to the National Gallery of Art’s website to find out more about it, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of beautiful Homer works that the museum owns. I wouldn’t have been able to choose! This piece displays two of Homer’s characteristic artistic interests – images of women and Japanese aesthetics. (1) The latter appears, I think, in the slight kimono-like qualities of the dress. Homer painted in many U.S. eastern states and also spent time in France and England. (2) Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a record of where this work was made, though I think he spent most of the 1870s in America.

Sources: (1) Weinberg, H. Barbara. “Winslow Homer (1836–1910).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004). (2) National Gallery of Art. “Homer, Winslow, Biography”. In The Collection. Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art.

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