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Fisher Girl with Net, 1882

Robert Sterling Clark declared that Winslow Homer (1836–1910) was one of the greatest artists of the nineteenth century. Acting on this belief, he bought more than two hundred works by the artist: Clark owned more works by him than by anyone else. In addition to its quantity, the breadth and ambition of Clark's collection make it the finest gathering of Homer's works put together by an individual since the artist's death.

Prompted by a historic event—the fiftieth anniversary of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute—this exhibition looks at some of the various histories that Homer's works suggest. Homer began his career as an illustrator for the popular press, providing pictures of current events for newspapers in Boston and New York. Historians use these—as well as his paintings and watercolors—to illustrate the mid-nineteenth century's political and economic developments. Art historians, too, use the works to explore not only Homer's biography and achievement, but also such broader questions as the rise of the critical press, the quest for a national style, and the ramifications of an expanding art market. One work can help tell a variety of stories.

The Clark's collection itself has a history. Sterling Clark acquired his first painting by Homer in 1916 and continued adding to the collection up until the Institute opened in 1955. In the years since then, Homer's works have played prominent roles in the museum's exhibitions, publications, and programs.

Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History is first and foremost an opportunity to see and enjoy the achievement of this great artist. We invite you to explore a few of the many stories that the works illuminate.

Marc Simpson, Curator of American Art
Susannah Maurer, Class of 2006, Graduate Program in the History of Art, co-sponsored by Williams College and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

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