Summer Night (1890)

Homer, Winslow (1836-1910)

Summer Night
Oil on canvas, 76.5 x 102 cm
Musée d’OrsayParis

Winslow Homer began as a cartoonist reporter during the Civil War, before painting scenes describing the daily life of the army and the rural world with the naturalistic precision that then dominated American painting. After a stay in Paris, Homer adopted the impressionist palette for a time, then found his definitive mark, between realism and symbolism. Summer Night perfectly expresses this synthesis, and can, as such, be considered one of the first masterpieces of an American art still in search of identity. This nocturne located by the ocean transcends the observation of reality with a keen sense of poetry and mystery. The chiaroscuro bathes the forms in uncertainty, while the ghostly silhouettes of two women dance on the shore. If it is possible and likely to summon the memory of Courbet’s waves here, the lyricism, tinged with mysticism, that Homer expresses contributes to the construction of a feeling of nature that is properly American. (M’O)