Winslow Homer’s Illustrations

May 16-September 30, 2011

Boston Public Library, Copley Square (Wiggin Gallery)

Winslow Homer's IllustrationsThis exhibition explores Homer’s wood engravings for illustrated weeklies from 1858 to 1873. In the span of these 15 years, Homer portrayed rural life in America, the brutality of the Civil War, the changing roles of women, and the favorite pastimes of the American people.

At this time, the illustrated weekly was a revolutionary venture on the publishing scene. The weeklies were a cross between contemporary magazines and pictorial newspapers. Wood engraving, newly rediscovered and refined, was a fast, inexpensive way to reproduce pictures; however, the publishers were in need of illustrators, and more importantly, expert engravers.

Wood engravers were rare in this country because the medium had never been popular. Scores of engravers from France came to America in search of work, and a young Frenchman introduced Homer to the wood block. Young Homer sketched for the block and sold his first illustration to the Boston weekly Ballou’s Pictorial. A short time later, his work appeared in the smart and chic Harper’s Weekly. In less than a month, Homer had become a professional free-lance illustrator.

The Print Department is fortunate to have in its collection more than 150 illustrations by Homer for Harper’s Weekly and various periodicals.

Curation: Jane Winton, BPL Print Department

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