Winslow Homer concluded the watercolor painting entitled Dogs in a Boat in 1889. The artist took many trips to the North Woods Club during the summer time. The club was in New York, near the hamlet of Minerva in the Adirondack Mountains and was an excellent location for fishing and hunting. The painter had fully embraced watercolor painting just a few years earlier and would take advantage of his trips to capture the solitude provided by the great outdoors. Homer was fascinated by the instincts of survival and savagery that came along with life in nature, portraying this in his work.
In Dog in a Boat, Homer depicted a deer hunting scene, where a group of trained dogs wait in a boat for the right moment. These hounds lure deer into the water until the would tire out and drown. The dark gray boat holds about five white dogs with black, brown and ochre spots. The animals are attentive to their surroundings, and each faces a different direction. Homer used textured paper, giving the pigment a rough surface, and he also dabbed certain areas with a sponge. A figure of a man can barely be seen behind the dogs, possibly a change in direction the artist decided upon while working on the painting.
The water reflects the dark boat and figures of the dogs in loose and expressive brushstrokes. The background shows blotches of brown, green, ochre, and orange pigment applied with a sponge to represent trees. Homer gave a slight perspective to the distancing vegetation, and the shades get darker as well. A small area of blue-gray sky with some white clouds shows in the top left corner of the canvas, giving this dark composition a gloomy atmosphere. Dogs in a Boat is a beautiful example of the artist’s looser and more experimental style of working.
Homer had become very passionate about watercolor painting, dedicating himself to mastering this craft. His work varied from a very realistic style, to loosely painted Impressionist inspired paintings. At first, he received doubtful comments from the critics about how this change in medium, but the public’s reaction showed his work to be a huge success. Homer was going through a difficult period financially but was able to recover by selling his work.
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