Homer made his first editioned etching in 1884 during the so-called etching revival, when the form gained great popularity with connoisseurs, collectors, and the general public. Self-taught in the medium, Homer turned to etching in an especially serious way from 1887 to 1889; the resulting prints were his major efforts in those years. Six of Homer’s seven principal etchings are in the Clark collection as are two prints, never exhibited by Homer, that are related to the painting Undertow. For most of his etchings Homer took thematic inspiration from an earlier oil painting or watercolor. In each case, however, he simplified the scene to enhance the power of the print’s narrative.
Homer thought highly of his etchings—he later claimed that some watercolors “were as good work, with the exception of one or two etchings, as I ever did”—but they were not commercially successful, and he abandoned the medium in 1889.