No single artist represented as many different old New Englands as did Winslow Homer. An illustrator, watercolorist, marine and landscape painter, Homer's vision of his native region enjoyed great currency in his lifetime and influenced countless others, both before and after his death. His path to greatness, like so many other painters of the period, led directly out of a work-a-day middle-class background.
Homer's father owned a hardware store in Boston and his mother was an accomplished watercolorist. The younger Homer took a job with John Henry Bufford and, like James Wells Champney, the future artist seemed destined for a career as an illustrator. In 1859, however, Homer moved to New York City and began taking classes at the National Academy of Design. He came to popular attention during the Civil War as a sketch artist for Harper's Weekly and his oil paintings of wartime scenes secured his place as a major American talent. He was elected to the National Academy in 1866.
Homer traveled to Paris that year and upon his return focused his art on nostalgic scenes of rural life, including one-room school houses, children at play, country stores, and an old wooden mill. In 1881 and 1882, he lived in Cullercoats, an English fishing village on the North Sea coast. Homer relocated to Prout's Neck, Maine, and, for the remainder of his life, dedicated himself primarily to painting the rugged people and landscape of the Atlantic coastline.
William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)