Homer developed a penchant for forceful realism early in his career. Following an apprenticeship in a Boston lithography shop, he supported himself as a freelance illustrator, creating a wide variety of popular images that subsequently were published as wood engravings in national periodicals like _Harper's Weekly_. During the early 1860s, his themes ranged from stylish seaside–resort life to the horrors of the battlefield. Following an extended trip to Europe in 1866–1867, Homer adopted a warmer palette, a looser brush technique, and an interest in painting outdoor scenes that owed much to the influence of contemporary French artists such as Courbet, Manet, and Monet.

Upon his return to the United States, Homer turned his attention to lively scenes of sports and recreation, painting warm and appealing images that perfectly suited the prevalent postwar nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent America. _Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)_, painted during the country's centennial year, has become one of the best–known and most beloved artistic images of life in 19th–century America.

More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication _American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I_, pages 312-318, which is available as a free PDF at https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/american-paintings-19th-century-part-1.pdf


  • Title: Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)
  • Creator: Winslow Homer
  • Date Created: 1873-1876
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 61.5 x 97 cm (24 3/16 x 38 3/16 in.) framed: 90.5 x 126.4 cm (35 5/8 x 49 3/4 in.)
  • Provenance: Purchased from the artist by Charles Stewart Smith [1832-1909], New York, by 1878;[1] by inheritance to his son, Howard Caswell Smith, Oyster Bay, New York; sold 1943 to (Wildenstein & Co., New York); purchased 31 December 1943 by NGA. [1] Smith's son believed that his father purchased the painting directly from the artist, per his letter of 31 October 1947, in NGA curatorial files. However, Charles Smith may instead have purchased the painting at auction in early 1877. Gerdts (in Lloyd Goodrich, edited and expanded by Abigail Booth Gerdts, _Record of Works by Winslow Homer_, New York, 2005: 2:no. 596) writes that according to the _New York Commercial Advertiser_ (27 February 1877), the artist sent the painting to be included in an exhibition at Kurtz Gallery, New York, that was to be followed by the works being auctioned under the direction of Daniel A. Mathews on 1 and 2 March 1877. The _New York Herald_ announced (3 March 1877) that the painting sold for one of the highest prices realized at the auction.
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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