Oil on canvas
From the Estate of Tatiana Ruzicka (1915-1995). Presented by Edward Connery Lathem in memory of Rudolph Ruzicka (1883-1978); EL.P.997.36
One of the most admired American artists of the late nineteenth century, Winslow Homer is perhaps best known for his powerful late marines, which serve as metaphors for mankind’s primal relationship with nature. During a trip to Europe in 1866, following his early career as an illustrator, he came under the influence of the Barbizon school, which fostered his interest in idyllic rural subject matter. During the 1870s, a period of national healing following the Civil War, Homer celebrated the pleasures and innocence of childhood through innumerable images of barefoot country boys at play. Rural lads held a special place in the nineteenth-century American imagination. Rambunctious and carefree, they represented our nation’s youth and promise, as well as its seemingly simpler agrarian past. Set in a sun-filled Long Island meadow, this painting features two idling boys prostrate before a seated girl, who is the object of their rapt attention and seeming admiration. In a lighthearted manner, Homer thus touches not only on the happy abandon of rural youth but also on the theme of courtship, which figured prominently in his images of adult interactions during the same period. In this childhood idyll, the relationship between the sexes lacks the strain of his adult exchanges, in which awkward stances and unmet gazes likely reflect Homer’s own unrequited love in the early 1870s. As he often did during this period, Homer explored the imagery of this composition in a cluster of closely related works. This appears to be an abandoned preliminary version of his 1874 painting Enchanted (private collection); it also relates to a drawing, a wood engraving for Harper’s Weekly, and another, more tightly cropped painting, Boys in a Pasture (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), which features just the two boys.
Last Updated: 5/11/09