Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was one of the foremost American artists of the middle of the nineteenth century and we are fortunate that many of his images were produced as wood engravings are still accessible and affordable even a century and a half later. Homer came from an old New England Family where his mother, an amateur watercolorist, encouraged his artistic inclinations. At age 19, Homer apprenticed in the John Bufford firm in Boston, where he mostly copied the designs of other artists onto sheet music covers and other commercial lithographs. Soon, however, he began to submit his own work to various illustrated newspapers, in 1859 moving to New York where he established himself as a freelance illustrator working for such illustrated newspapers as Ballou’s Pictorial, Harper’s Weekly, and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News.
Homer produced a wonderful series of wood engraved illustrations for Harper’s during the Civil War, though he focused more on the daily life of the soldiers, rather than battle scenes. After the war, Homer continued to produce images for various publications, with his eye turning to genre subjects which illustrated daily life in America of the middle classes who were the primary readers of those newspapers and magazines. By the 1870s, Homer had built a successful career as a painter and watercolorist, but he continued working as an illustrator to 1875. His images capture America at the time as few others, with a kindness and honesty that provide a privileged look at our past.