Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer

Armand Cabrera

Winslow Homer was born on February 24, 1836 in Boston and raised in nearby Cambridge. At nineteen, Homer was apprenticed to a lithographic shop. He found the job monotonous, so at twenty-one, Homer left to launch himself into a career as a freelance illustrator.

Although self-taught, Homer excelled in drawing. After moving to New York City Harpers Weekly, the most prominent American Magazine at the time, hired the young artist as an illustrator. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Harpers Weekly sent Homer to the Virginia front. Instead of depictions of battles, Homer focused on the daily life of the troops. His honest portrayal of the soldiers has become one of the best historical records of how they dressed and lived.

Illustration did not artistically satisfy Homer for long. Soon after the end of the war, he began to seriously pursue painting as his main source of income. Homer took lessons from Frederick Rondel, a Boston genre painter. After a month of the most basic training, Homer completed his instruction, bought some oil painting supplies and ventured into the outdoors to paint directly, observe and learn from nature.

Homer’s earliest paintings are genre scenes of American rural life. The unique quality of these scenes is found in Homer’s ability to paint the motif simply and directly with an eye for light and color. His fidelity to painting from life obviously enhanced this facility.

Homer lived a dual life as illustrator and artist until he was almost forty. Then at the height of his illustration career—he stopped. Homer turned his full attention to oil and watercolors. He continued to work from nature and develop his technical skill. Homer’s work simplified and became even more powerful. His watercolors show an ability and sureness of handling that few artists ever realize. Most of these pieces were painted outside of Maine and many were painted during his winter travels away from his studio.

In 1883, Homer moved from New York City to Maine and built a studio on Prout’s Neck. This was his home for the rest of his life. In 1910, Winslow Homer died in his studio at the age of 74.


Winslow HomerLloyd Goodrich
Whitney Museum of American Art 1973

Winslow Homer WatercolorsHelen A. Cooper
Yale University Press 1986

QuoteA painter who begins and finishes indoors, that which is outdoors, misses a hundred little facts…a hundred little accidental effects of sunshine and shadow that can be reproduced only in the immediate presence of Nature.
This making of studies and then taking them home is only half right. You get composition, but you lose freshness; you miss the subtle and, to the artist, the finer characteristics of the scene itself.~ Winslow Homer

N C Wyeth

Newell Convers Wyeth

Armand Cabrera

One of the most famous illustrators from America’s Golden Age of Illustration was Newell Convers Wyeth. Also an accomplished easel painter, Newell Convers Wyeth was born on October 22, 1882. He was the eldest of four sons of Andrew Newell Wyeth, a farmer, and Henriette Zirngiebel. Growing up in a rural setting gave the young “N.C.” a deep love for the land and a great understanding of the human form in motion. N.C. had a keen ability for recalling the smallest visual details of a scene—something that would serve him well as an illustrator.

It was N.C.’s mother who encouraged his artistic ability and she who convinced his father to allow N.C. to attend art school instead of an apprenticeship to a New Hampshire Farm. N.C. attended the Mechanic Art School in Boston, graduating in 1899. He continued his studies at the Massachusetts Normal Art School and the Eric Pape School of Art in 1902. Through a fellow student, he was encouraged to apply for the Howard Pyle School in Delaware.

Howard Pyle was the most famous Illustrator of his time. His school was free to anyone who met Pyle’s standard for artistic excellence and hard work. Within 4 months, the 20 year old N.C. rose to the top of his class. Pyle encouraged his students to paint from life, whenever possible.

Although N.C was marginalized by other artists during his lifetime because he chose illustration as his occupation, his illustrations have stood the test of time as great paintings. N.C. became one of the most successful illustrators in America, illustrating such classics as Treasure Island, Last of the Mohicans, Robin Hood and Robinson Crusoe.

Throughout his career, N.C. would return to his passion for the land and people close to his homes in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Port Clyde, Maine. These canvases not only have his illustrator’s skill of exceptional facility, but also a deep understanding of the land and the people who worked it.

N.C. Wyeth created what is one of the most impressive art families in America. His sons and daughters went on to become successful artists in their own right. His son, Andrew, and his grandson, Jamie, are continuing the legacy to this day.
N.C. was tragically killed with his grandson, Newell, when his car stalled on the train tracks near his house in 1945.


Not For Publication: Landscapes, Still Lifes, and Portraits by N.C Wyeth
Brandywine River Museum 1982

N.C. Wyeth A Biography
David Michaelis
Knopf 1998

N.C. Wyeth: the Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals
Douglas Allen and Douglas Allen, JR.
Bonanza 1972

I don’t want to be rated as an illustrator trying to paint, but as a painter who has shaken the dust of the illustrator from his heels!! ~Newell Convers Wyeth

Edwin Austin Abbey 1852 – 1911

Armand Cabrera
Edwin Austin Abbey was born in1852 and died in 1911. At the height of his career he was one of the most popular artists of his day in both America and England. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy and began working as an Illustrator in 1870 for Harpers Publishing.

In 1887 he did illustrations for Harpers publication of Shakespeare’s Comedies. Abbey would use Shakespeare as a basis for his art throughout his career.

Famous for his brilliant pen and ink drawings Abbey did not begin to paint seriously in oils until 1889. Abbeys paintings were done on a large salon style scale, seven to ten feet, some even larger.

One of the biggest projects of his career was the Boston Library Murals.
The murals were based on the legend of the Holy Grail. The Fifteen Panels were 8 feet high and 192 feet in total length. The project took more than twelve years for which Abbey was paid fifteen thousand dollars; he finished it in 1902.

That same year he started the painting of the coronation of Edward IV. The canvas was fifteen feet by nine feet, and took two years to complete.

In 1906 he painted Columbus in the new world, another large canvas at ten feet by seven feet. It was his last Royal Academy submission.

Abbey’s greatest undertaking was the murals and paintings done for the Harrisburg State capitol. Started in 1906, the project would take the rest of his life and would be finished by John Singer Sargent and Violet Oakley after his death.

The projects centerpiece, the Apotheosis of Pennsylvania, is thirty-five feet by thirty-five feet square. Abbey also painted the ceiling which is twenty-four feet in diameter. Other parts of the commission were four lunettes, thirty-eight feet by twenty two feet and four pendentives fourteen feet in diameter. Abbey painted three canvases for Harrisburg, one twelve feet by six feet and two twenty-four feet by twelve feet. Edwin Austin Abbey died at the age of fifty-nine in 1911.

Edwin Austin Abbey R.A. His Life and Work (two volumes)
E.V. Lucas
Charles Scribners and Sons 1921

Unfaded pageant E.A. Abbeys Shakespearean subjects
Lucy Oakley
Wallach Art Gallery 1994

Edwin Austin Abbey 1852-1911
Various authors
Yale University Gallery Exhibition Catalog 1974

QuoteThe gist of what I believe as student should be made to do is to be careful in his construction and accurate in his drawing, as accurate as humanly possible. If he is a colorist this wont hurt his color- and if he is not (and a few of them are), he will have the drawing and composition and design to justify it. ~Edwin Austin Abbey

Dean Cornwell Vignettes

Armand Cabrera
I have some other posts planned on Dean Cornwell that will have more depth but I thought I’d start with some favorite examples for now. I tried to use images I haven’t seen before on the web and I used images from old auction catalogs so the color is better than other scans I’ve seen.
Cornwell is one of the few golden age illustrators that appeal to gallery artists and illustrators alike. His masterful compositions and use of thick bravura brushwork allows his paintings to survive beyond the illustrated page.

I happen to love his vignettes; these paintings were done for ads and illustrations usually in black and white or a limited palette for print of two or three colors.

All the extraneous details of a normal painting are stripped away and Cornwell gives us just enough to set the scene and make the characters live. I love the juxtaposition of abstract shape and rendered forms. Enjoy!