Artwork Details

Winslow Homer
American

1836–1910

Perils of the Sea
1888
Medium
Etching on cream Japan paper
Dimensions
27 3/4 x 33 1/8 inches
Location
Level 3
Accession Number
2007.1
Credit
Museum Purchase, James and Judy DeLapa

About the Artwork

Perils of the Sea is related to an ambitious watercolor Homer executed in the early 1880s while living on the northeast coast of England at Cullercoats near Tynemouth. This locale harbored a poor, hard-working community of fisher folk who made their living, and sometimes lost their lives, on the sea.

In Perils of the Sea, a group of coastal men and women gather in foul weather at the Volunteer Life Brigade’s Look Out House to witness a shipwreck they are powerless to reach. Homer derived the title from the refrain of Eternal Father, Strong to Save, a contemporary hymn: O hear us when we cry to Thee for those in peril on the sea.” Focusing on the observers, Homer reserves special attention for two women whom he isolates in the immediate foreground for tragic effect, despair drawn across their faces. He uses a dense profusion of etched lines to create remarkable contrasts of light and dark.

The print is one of eight large etchings that he executed between 1886 and 1889, exceptional works that he regarded as equal to his paintings in quality and significance.