Painting: Chanties in Color

What Walt Whitman called "measureless oceans of space" swelled across the background of most 19th century U.S. painting. Whether seas of grass or prairies of briny waves, the American wilderness seemed to have only distant dimensions. The way to conquer that expanse was to shrink it to human scale and bring man to the foreground of the new nation's wide horizons. Winslow Homer set out to bring the American vista into focus.

Image of Man. Unlike Western artists spellbound by the herculean Rockies, Homer mapped the more mercurial Eastern seacoast. From the Adirondack lakes, he followed streams in his fishing...

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