Tuesday 24 February 2015

Homer's Blackboard

It's time for a painting - and this one is Blackboard (1877), a watercolour by Winslow Homer, who was born on this day in 1836. Homer worked in so many styles, genres and media that he is quite hard to pin down, though it was perhaps in his breezy coastal and maritime scenes that he was most himself. Blackboard has something of the reposeful feel of a Chardin, with its muted palette, cool light, strong composition and air of being at once domestically familiar and faintly mysterious. The composition is boldly geometrical, from the dark rectangle of the blackboard and the grey dado below to the check pattern of the young teacher's pinafore and the straight line of her pointer - not to mention those geometrical shapes so carefully chalked on the board. What are they? It's now believed that they relate not to a geometry lesson but to a lesson in drawing, which in the 1870s often began with instruction in the drawing of such rectilinear shapes. Homer has crudely signed his name in a corner of the board, as if in chalk, placing himself at the heart of his own painting. It is, I think, a very beautiful picture.

No comments:

Post a Comment