Press Release

First Exhibition to Examine Winslow Homer’s use of Photography Opens in Summer 2018

Event Date: 
23 June 2018
Brunswick, Maine

New discoveries will be unveiled in this expansive exhibition, featuring more than 120 Homer paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and archival materials, including his camera, from the BCMA’s extensive collection of the artist’s work

Brunswick, Maine, January 17, 2018 — This summer the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) will present Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting, the first exhibition to look at the role of photography in Homer’s artistic practice. On view June 22 through October 28, 2018, Winslow Homer and the Camera brings together over 120 objects by the artist across all media, ranging from master paintings to drawings, prints, and photographs of his family and from his travels to Europe and the Bahamas, Cuba, and Florida in the 1880s. Inspired in part by the BCMA’s 2013 acquisition of a selection of Homer’s personal photographs and his camera from 1882, both of which will be displayed for the first time, the comprehensive survey of Homer’s artistic practice presents new research drawn from the Museum’s extensive collection of works by the artist, comprising over two-thirds of the expansive exhibition.  

Curated by co-director Frank H. Goodyear III and Bowdoin art history professor Dana E. Byrd, the exhibition will also include ephemera from the period and objects from his studio, presenting a full picture of the artist’s working methods, such as the wooden mannequins he used to draft compositions, his watercolor brushes, his walking stick, and two of the three cameras he owned in his lifetime. Homer acquired his first cameras during a two-year sojourn abroad in England, a trip he took in his mid-40s seeking a new direction in his art. Upon his return in 1882, scholars noted a demonstrable change in his style of painting and choice of subjects. Taking this shift and the artist’s penchant for experimentation across media as a point of departure, Winslow Homer and the Camera questions how new visual technology impacted the artist’s production and engagement with subjects, and unveils how photography became increasingly a part of Homer’s visual investigation and broader creative practice. 

“We are thrilled to present Winslow Homer and the Camera this June,” said Frank Goodyear, co-director and organizer of the exhibition, “Since the generous gift of Homer’s camera and photographs, my colleague Dana Byrd and I have been deeply engaged in understanding how Homer’s interest in photography influenced his own artistic identity. This exhibition allows us to consider how Homer’s experimentation with photography solidifies the artist as a protomodern figure, anticipating many of the trends and concerns of the artists who followed.” 

“The opportunity to examine Homer, a well-loved and well-researched figure of American art, anew, has been so rewarding,” says Dana E. Byrd. “Utilizing the Museum’s extensive collection of the artist’s work, Frank and I have uncovered a new facet of Homer’s celebrated oeuvre and we hope this pioneering framework will lead to continued revelations of how the iconic painter engaged with the modern world.” 

While Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting draws principally from the BCMA’s Winslow Homer Collection, the exhibition will also feature works on loan from twenty-five institutions and collectors from across the United States. Following its presentation at the BCMA, the exhibition will travel to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Museum Director Thomas Padon noted, “Homer defined the look of America in the second half of the 19th century and is central to key artists in our collection, which gives the exhibition particular resonance here at Brandywine.”

An illustrated catalogue of the same title authored by co-curators Dana E. Byrd and Frank H. Goodyear and published by Yale University Press will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue will serve as a significant contribution to the study of Winslow Homer and the cross-disciplinary study of painters and photography in American art. 

About the Bowdoin College Museum of Art

The collections of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art are among the most comprehensive of any college museum in the United States. Collecting commenced over 200 years ago with a major gift from the College’s founder James Bowdoin III and his family that included Gilbert Stuart’s magnificent portraits of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

The Museum is housed in the landmark Walker Art Building, designed in 1894 by Charles Follen McKim. Located on the historic quadrangle of Bowdoin College, the building is graced by murals by John La Farge, Kenyon Cox, Elihu Vedder, and Abbott Thayer. A $20.8-million renovation and expansion in 2007 provided a stunning setting for objects as diverse as monumental Assyrian reliefs from Nimrud, Iraq; European Old Master paintings; and works by American modernists. The Museum is the centerpiece of Bowdoin’s vibrant arts and culture community and offers a wealth of academic and educational programs. The Museum is also a prominent summer venue for major exhibitions such as Edward Hopper’s Maine (2011); William Wegman: Hello Nature (2012); Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea (2013); Richard Tuttle: A Print Retrospective (2014); Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860 – 1960 (2015); This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today (2016); and The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe (2017).

Fully accessible, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is open to the public free of charge from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday; 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday; and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. 

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The End of the Hunt, 1892, watercolor by Winslow Homer. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

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