Sea Paintings We Love: Homer's Palm Tree, Nassau

'What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way'  Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer (1836 -1910 American)
Palm Tree, Nassau by Winslow Homer  (1898) watercolour and graphite on off white wove paper  
Link to image info at Met

Can't you feel the wind blowing? 


  • That little white lighthouse in the distance is placed in a position compositionally that completes a triangle with the main palm tree. It creates a balance and hence calmness which balances the windy feeling. 
  • The composition is then made up of three main triangles. Two horizontal and one vertical. They're not quite isosceles triangles (2 equal sides) but nearly. 
  • And these triangular shapes echo the shapes of sailboats too. Just brilliant. It may look simple and spontaneous, at first glance, but it's not.

Homer's home at Prouts Neck, Maine, US


from Nothing If Not Critical by Robert Hughes (Penguin 1987) p 108
None of this prevented Homer's contemporaries from seeing such works as unvarnished and in some ways disagreeable truth. "Barbarously simple,"thought Henry James. " He has chosen the least pictorial features of the least pictorial range of scenery and civilization as if they were every inch as good as Capri or Tangier; and, to reward his audacity, he has incontestably succeeded."

It's Interesting

It's interesting what people see as 'barbarously simple'. Now the early 20th century modernists seem to be seen once again by the younger generations (of artists) as 'barbarously simple'. There seems to be little appreciation now for the so-called 'unpictorial' ie. Picasso, etc. 

Perhaps the revolution and chaos inherent in a lot of their work has had their moment and now we're living in an age of peace and harmony? Well no, but perhaps our times were predicted, to a degree, by those artists and today's artists are predicting a time of peace and harmony down the track. Let's hope so. 

I think the bottom line with any piece of art is does it move your soul?


Robert Hughes' American Visions: Episode 4



The section on Homer starts near the end of the video above then continues below.


Other Sea Paintings We Love

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