ART: WINSLOW HOMER: AMERICA'S SUPREME REALIST

THE POPULAR WINSLOW HOMER PAINTED A MASTERLY, PENETRATING--AND SURPRISINGLY DARK--VISION OF 19TH CENTURY LIFE

Was Winslow Homer the greatest American painter of the 19th century? Around 1900, many Americans would have said yes. The reputation of Thomas Eakins stood nowhere near its present zenith, and there was something flashy and slightly suspicious about John Singer Sargent, the other main candidate. And Homer was not only big with the public; he exerted a huge influence on younger painters. Robert Henri and the other realists of the Ashcan School embraced him as a role model--the virile eye, always staring at reality over the pencil. "The big strong thing," said Henri, thinking of Homer's seascapes, "can only be...

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