Skip to Content

Audio Stop 874

00:00 00:00
Seeming close to us, a young man and three boys sit or recline in a small sailboat that tips to our left on a choppy dark green sea in this horizontal painting. The billowing sail extends off the top left corner of the canvas and is echoed in the background to our right by the tall sails of another ship in the distance. The horizon line comes about a third of the way up the composition, and puffy grey and white clouds sweep across the turquoise sky. The sun lights the scene from our right so the boys’ ruddy faces are in shadow under their hats. The young man and boys all face our left so they lean against and into the boat as it cants up to our right. The boy nearest the sail to our left reclines across the bow. Next to him to our right, a younger boy perches on the edge of the boat and holds on with both hands. The oldest, in a red shirt, sits on the floor of the boat as he maneuvers the sail with a rope. Closer to us and to our right, a younger boy sits with his bare feet pressed together in front of his bent knees on the back edge of the boat, gazing into the distance over his right shoulder as he handles the tiller. The artist signed and dated the painting in dark letters in the lower right corner: “HOMER 1876.”

Winslow Homer

Breezing Up (A Fair Wind), 1873-1876

Not On View

Following an extended trip to Europe in 1866–1867, Winslow Homer adopted an interest in painting outdoor scenes that owed much to the influence of contemporary French artists such as Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, and Claude Monet. Upon his return to the United States, Homer turned his attention to lively scenes of sports and recreation, painting warm and appealing images perfectly suited to the prevalent post–Civil War nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent America. Breezing Up (A Fair Wind), completed during the country’s centennial year, has become one of the best-known and most beloved artistic images of life in 19th-century America.

West Building Tour: Featured Selections