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Undertow

Winslow Homer

American, 1836–1910

Undertow

1886

In 1883, Homer witnessed an event near Atlantic City, New Jersey, that allegedly inspired this dramatic painting. Rescuers try to haul ashore two women, weighed down by their waterlogged bathing dresses, in danger of being pulled beneath the waves by an undertow. The figures appear as three-dimensional and solid as the ancient Greek marble statues on which they were modeled. Yet despite their muscularity and apparent strength, their struggle suggests human frailty in the face of the sea’s awesome power.

Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 29 13/16 x 47 5/8 in. (75.7 x 121 cm) Frame: 40 3/16 x 58 7/8 x 4 in. (102.1 x 149.5 x 10.2 cm)
Object Number 1955.4
Acquisition Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1924
Status On View

Image Caption

Winslow Homer, Undertow, 1886, Oil on canvas. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.4.

Bibliography

Conrads, Margaret C. American Paintings and Sculpture at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1990.

Provenance

Edward D. Adams, New York (1889–1924); [M. Knoedler & Co., New York, sold to Clark, 30 Apr. 1924]; Sterling and Francine Clark (1924–55); Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.

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