Winslow Homer (1863- 1910) was an American illustrator, engraver, and painter. Considered one of the foremost painters of the 19th century, Winslow was also a very talented wood engraver. In fact, the most popular wood engravings are illustrations by Homer which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, Every Saturday, Our Young Folks and other periodicals. Winslow Homer spent twenty years of his life as an illustrator for popular weeklies. These publications came into fashion around 1855, and Homer contributed to them until he switched mediums and began watercolor and painting in 1875.
Born in Boston in 1836, Homer spent most of his childhood and teen years in Cambridge. At the age of 19, he apprenticed at Bufford Lithographers for a span of two years. After his introduction to the print business, Homer decided to become a freelance illustrator, making drawings to be engraved in wood by the newspapers’ wood engravers.
His early illustrations reflect mostly Boston scenes of families, events, and favorite pastimes. At the start of the Civil War, Homer was sent to the front line by Harper’s Weekly. His mission was to record camp life, battles, and the events of the war for anxious readers back home. Shortly following the end of the war, Homer returned to more idyllic and charming scenes. These genre scenes are some of the most sought after, even today, and reflect a nostalgia and longing for simpler times, before the destruction and chaos of the Civil War. In 1875, Homer devoted his artistic talents to painting, using many of his illustrations as the basis for his painted works.
Below are a small sampling of Homer’s prints. It is estimated that Homer created more than 300 illustrations during 1857- 1875. If you would like to see more images, make sure to visit our website or visit the gallery, where we have a whole section devoted to his prints.