Overview

Right and Left, painted a year before the artist's death, is the culminating achievement of Winslow Homer's extraordinary career. The title, provided by a viewer during the work's first public showing, refers to the act of shooting the ducks successively with separate barrels of a shotgun. Some scholars have suggested that the dull expression, the slackened feet, and the diving posture of the duck on the right indicate that it is the one which has been hit by the hunter's initial blast. Its mate is attempting to escape the second shot which has just been fired—as evidenced by the vermilion flash and billowing gray smoke barely visible at the middle left. Yet the downward posture may be an effective escape maneuver, while the arrested motion of the duck on the left might indicate that it is the one which has been hit. Homer may have conveyed an ambiguous message deliberately, in order to illustrate that crucial moment of transition between life and death.

We witness the scene from the ducks' elevated vantage point, a precarious perspective that encourages empathy with the threatened creatures. By underscoring the fleeting nature of these birds' existence, Homer reminds viewers of the fragility of their own.

Inscription

lower right: HOMER / 1909

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Consigned by the artist January 1909 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold by 3 August 1909 to Randal Morgan [1854-1926], Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania; by inheritance to his wife, Mrs. Randal Morgan, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania; consigned 1950 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York);[1] purchased 11 July 1951 by NGA.

Exhibition History

1909
The Century Association, New York, 1909 (according to Knoedler invoice, but no catalogue found and no record in Century Association papers).
1910
Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1910, 47, no. 461.
1911
Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Winslow Homer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1911, 25, no. 22.
1936
Winslow Homer Centenary Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1936-1937, 23, no. 34.
1936
Winslow Homer, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, 1936, no. 30, repro.
1937
Centenary Exhibition of Works of Winslow Homer, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1937, 20, no. 25.
1939
Art in Our Time, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1939, no. 41.
1944
Sport in American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1944, no. 66, as Right and Left [Duck Shooting].
1947
A Loan Exhibition of Winslow Homer, Wildenstein & Company, New York, 1947, 35, no. 39.
1947
Masterpieces of Philadelphia Private Collections, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1947, 75, no. 63, as Left and Right.
1948
The Coast and the Sea: A Survey of American Marine Painting, The Brooklyn Museum, 1948-1949, 22, no. 63.
1958
Shooting and Fishing in Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, 1958, no. 17.
1958
Winslow Homer: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1958-1959, 121, no. 78.
1959
A Retrospective Exhibition: Winslow Homer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1959, 98, no. 72.
1963
Maine and Its Artists, 1710-1963, Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 1963-1964, 20, no. 64 (shown only in Boston and New York).
1964
Homer and the Sea, The Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 1964, no. 53.
1967
Seventy-five Masterworks--An Exhibition of Paintings in Honor of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Portland Art Association, Portland Art Museum, Oregon, 1967-1968, no. 600.
1969
In Memoriam, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, unnumbered checklist.
1970
Winslow Homer 1836-1910, William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, 1970, no. 22.
1973
Winslow Homer, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago, 1973, 137, no. 72.
1983
A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting, 1760-1910, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Grand Palais, Paris, 1983-1984, no. 110, repro.
1986
Europa/Amerika: Die Geschichte einer kunstlerischen Faszination seit 1940 (Europe/America: The History of an Artistic Fascination Since 1940), Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 1986, 425, no. 71.
1988
Le Japonisme, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 1988, 293, 320, no. 305.
1990
Reckoning with Winslow Homer: His Late Works and Their Influence, The Cleveland Museum of Art; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1990-1991, fig. 32, 34, 37-39, 41, 166, 173.
1995
Winslow Homer. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995-1996, no. 235, repro.
2005
Winslow Homer in the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2005-2006, unnumbered brochure, fig. 10.

Bibliography

1910
"The Pennsylvania Academy Exhibition." International Studio 40 ( March 1910): 22, repro. 22.
1911
Downes, William Howe. The Life and Works of Winslow Homer. Boston and New York, 1911: 244-245, 258, 282, 286, repro. opp. 244.
1912
Pach, Walter. "Winslow Homer et la Significance de Son Oeuvre." Art in America (November 1912): 76, repro. 77, as Un Coup Double.
1923
Pousette-Dart, Nathaniel. Winslow Homer. In Distinguished American Artists. New York, 1923: 58th repro.
1926
Freund, Frank E. Washburn. "Winslow Homer." Sketch Book Magazine 3 (August 1926): 40, repro. 38.
1932
Bolton, Theodore. "The Art of Winslow Homer: An Estimate." Fine Arts 18 (February 1932): 52, 55.
1936
Clifford, Henry. "Winslow Homer: Oils, Watercolors, and Drawings in the Centennial Exhibit Currently in Philadelphia."Art News 34 (9 May 1936): 6, repro.
1942
Watson, Forbes. Winslow Homer. New York, 1942: repro. 84.
1944
Goodrich, Lloyd. Winslow Homer. New York, 1944: 198, repro. 62.
1946
Baldinger, Wallace S. "The Art of Eakins, Homer and Ryder: A Social Revelation." The Art Quarterly (Summer 1946): 227, repro. 229.
1947
Louchheim, Aline B. "The Main Line Collects: A Chance to See Philadelphia's Privately Owned Masterpieces." Art News 46 (July 1947): 16, repro.
1951
Walker, John. Paintings from America. Harmondsworth, England, 1951: 29, 44, no. 35, repro. 177.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 176, color repro.
1959
Goodrich, Lloyd. Winslow Homer. New York, 1959: 31, repro. 177.
1961
Gardner, Albert Ten Eyck. Winslow Homer, American Artist: His World and His Work. New York, 1961: 206, color repro. 92.
1962
Gould, Jean. Winslow Homer: A Portrait. New York, 1962: 289.
1963
Ripley, Elizabeth. Winslow Homer: A Biography. Philadelphia and New York, 1963: 66, 67, repro. 67.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 337, repro. 328.
1966
Beam, Philip C. Winslow Homer at Prout's Neck. Boston, 1966: 247-249, repro. 248.
1966
Beam, Philip C. Winslow Homer at Prout's Neck. Exh. cat. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, 1966: n.p.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:492, color repro.
1966
Flexner, James Thomas. The World of Winslow Homer, 1836-1910. New York, 1966: 180-181, color repro. 180-181.
1968
Wilmerding, John. A History of American Marine Painting. Salem, Massachusetts, 1968: 222, repro. 224.
1970
_American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 70, repro.
1971
Cott, Perry B. "The Alisa Mellon Bruce Gifts." The Connoisseur 178, no. 718 (December 1971): 249, 258, repro. 257.
1972
Wilmerding, John. Winslow Homer. New York, 1972: 168, 172, 177, color repro. 206.
1973
Hyman, Linda. Winslow Homer: America's Old Master. New York, 1973: 87, 89, repro. 88.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 559, no. 847, color repro.
1976
Stein, Roger B. "Structure as Meaning: Towards a Cultural Interpretation of American Painting." American Art Review 3 (March-April 1976): 74-76, color repro. 77.
1976
Wilmerding, John. American Art. Hammondsworth, England, and New York, 1976: 136, pl. 163.
1977
Young, Mahonri Sharp. American Realists: Homer to Hopper. New York, 1977: 34, repro. 41.
1979
Hendricks, Gordon. The Life and Work of Winslow Homer. New York, 1979: 246-247, 260, 268, 277, 283, color repro. 260-262.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 125, pl. 112.
1980
_American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 11, 177, repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 10, 15, no. 35, color repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. "Winslow Homer's Right and Left." In Studies in the History of Art 9 (1980): 59-85, color repro. 60, repro. 83.
1981
Williams 1981, color repro. 158, 173, repro. 176.
1983
Adams, Henry. "Mortal Themes: Winslow Homer." Art in America 71 (February 1983): 122, color repro. 126.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 557, no. 844, color repro.
1985
McEwen, John. "Audubon and His Legacy." Art in America 73 (September 1985): 106, 108, color repro. 101.
1986
Cooper, Helen A. Winslow Homer Watercolors. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven. Washington, D.C., 1986: 184, 239.
1986
Judge, Mary A. Winslow Homer. New York, 1986: 86, 89, 92, color repro. 88.
1987
Wilmerding, John. American Marine Painting. Rev. ed. of A History of American Marine Painting, 1968. New York, 1987: 160, color repro. 161.
1988
Scully, Vincent. "Winslow Homer and the Waters." Architectural Digest 45 (April 1988): 214, color repro. 210.
1988
Simpson, Marc. Winslow Homer: Paintings of the Civil War. San Francisco, 1988: 48, 181, repro. 182.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 18-19, 124, no. 39, color repro. 125.
1989
Reed, Christopher. "The Artist and the Other: The Work of Winslow Homer." Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (Spring 1989): 76.
1990
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. "Homer around 1900." In Winslow Homer: A Symposium. Edited by Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. In Studies in the History of Art 26 (1990): 146.
1990
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. Winslow Homer. New York, 1990: 128, 135, 136, 140, 144, 146, color repro. 144.
1990
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. "Winslow Homer's Unfinished Business." Studies in the History of Art 37 (1990): 113.
1990
Robertson, Bruce. Reckoning with Winslow Homer: His Late Works and Their Influence. Cleveland, 1990: 34, 37-39, 41, 173, repro. 39.
1990
Tatham, David. "Winslow Homer at the North Woods Club." In Winslow Homer: A Symposium. Edited by Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. In Studies in the History of Art 26 (1990): 126, repro. 127.
1990
Wilmerding, John and Linda Ayres. Winslow Homer in the 1870's: Selections from the Valentine-Pulsifer Collection. Exh. cat. The Art Museum, Princeton University; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. Princeton, 1990: 16.
1990
Young, Mahonri Sharp. "Letter from the USA. The Prophet of Prout's Neck." Apollo 132 (December 1990): repro. 425.
1991
Wilmerding, John. American Views: Essays on American Art. Princeton, 1991: 37, 48, 208, 223-243, repro. 224, color repro. no. 17, details 240-241.
1992
_American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 205, repro.
1992
_National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 247, repro.
1992
Wilkinson, Todd. "Portraits of a Sporting Past." Ducks Unlimited 56 (September-October 1992): 47-48, repro. 46-47.
1995
_Winslow Homer. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995-1996: no. 235.
1996
Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 327-333, color repro.
1997
Little, Carl. Winslow Homer: His Art, His Light, His Landscapes, California, 1997, p. 172-173, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 325, no. 263, color repro.
2009
Gariff, David, Eric Denker, and Dennis P. Weller. The World's Most Influential Painters and the Artists They Inspired. Hauppauge, NY, 2009: 121, color repro.
2012
Brock, Charles. “George Bellows: An Unfinished Life.” In George Bellows ed. Charles Brock (Exh. cat. Washington 2012). Munich, 2012: 11, color fig. 2.

Technical Summary

A moderately thin layer of white ground covers a fine, plain-woven fabric support that has been lined. Paint application ranges from thin in the foreground water to multilayered in the ducks, and it displays brushwork throughout. The painting is in good condition. Abrasion of paint in some of the thinner passages and ground, perhaps by the artist, has been inpainted. Discolored varnish was removed and the painting was restored in 1983.

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