On a recent podcast I mentioned that I had attended a lecture at the Harvard Art Museums. The lecture was three different curators discussing a single painting: Winslow Homer's Summer Night. In the two photos here you can see the lecture and then the actual painting:
This is a very different work for Winslow Homer. Here's a photo of the artist himself from winslowhomer.org:
There's a longish bio of him at the website I mentioned above, which is worth reading. In case you're not familiar with his work, here are a couple of his more famous nautical paintings (from wikipedia):
As you can see, most of his dramatic at sea paintings involve danger or the threat of danger. By contrast, Summer Night is an absolute walk in the park. It's not a painting that I was familiar with, and if I'm being honest, it's not a painting that I would have given a second glance at in a museum. In fact, here are some of the other pieces that were in the same gallery as Summer Night:
I find all of these works far more visually arresting. So, what makes Summer Night worthy of an hour-long lecture by academics imported from all over the globe?
Interestingly enough, that question was part of what was discussed during the lecture. There were differing theories. However, one thing that was not brought up was a question I have: Would we be talking about this painting if it hadn't been painted by Homer? Or is it interesting to us because we respect Homer?
I don't know the answer, but it's an interesting one to ponder. Do you have an opinion? I'd love to know!
Here's one last look at Summer Night:
Thanks for stopping by!