Croquet Scene (1866)

Homer, Winslow (1836-1910)

Croquet Scene
Oil on canvas, 40.3 × 66.2 cm
Art Institute of ChicagoChicago

One of America’s foremost painters, Winslow Homer began his career as an illustrator during the Civil War. In the late 1860s, he turned his acute observational and technical skills toward oil painting, depicting figures bathed in sunlight out-of-doors. These early paintings, often executed in series, feature scenes of upper-class leisure pursuits—in this case, women and men competing with one another in the popular sport of croquet, which had recently been introduced to the United States from the British Isles. In Croquet Scene, one of five paintings Homer completed on the subject, progress on “the grand round” seems fairly advanced. The crouching male figure positions the ball belonging to the woman dressed in red. She is about to croquet (or “send up the country”) another ball, probably belonging to the woman in the left foreground, who shields her eyes against the bright afternoon sun. Notable for its bold patterning, strong contours, and brilliant light effects, the painting epitomizes the spirit of a breezy summer afternoon. (AIC)