Watercolor over graphite
Support: Cream(2) wove paper
Sheet: 35 x 50.6 cm (13 3/4 x 19 15/16 in.)
Anonymous Gift 1973.142
Noted for his technical variety in watercolors, Homer used a technique called scraping—removing softened paint and paper fibers by taking a blunt or sharp object to the paper’s wet surface—to produce the pond’s two glistening white highlights.
In 1886, Winslow Homer began to produce oil paintings and watercolors of subjects in the Adirondack Mountains, where he and his brother Charles had fished and hunted since the 1870s. In Leaping Trout, a silvery trout propels itself from the water in pursuit of a hapless insect or a fisherman’s fly. Homer’s choice to adopt the fish’s perspective, rather than a fisherman’s, is quite unconventional and heightens the drama and immediacy of the scene. His technique, influenced by the free brushwork of French Impressionism, similarly animates his still-life subject. Luminous washes of transparent blue and grey watercolor suggest the fish’s iridescent skin, while opaque pricks of bright red on its body lend a decorative effect reminiscent of Japanese prints. On the water’s surface, Homer uses scraping to create two brilliant white highlights, and dry brushing to produce the impression of a reflective surface. Although the overall effect is mysterious and dreamlike, the color and movement of the fish is carefully studied, suggesting Homer’s desire to appeal to the sportsmen who might buy his works.
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