Man with Plow Horse

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Winslow Homer
American, 1836-1910

Man with Plow Horse, 1879

Watercolor, with rewetting and scraping, over carbon transfer and graphite, on medium weight, moderately textured, off-white wove paper (all edges trimmed)
306 x 486 mm
Private Collection, Obj: 189157

Throughout most of his career, Homer showed a preference for depicting working people. Man with Plow Horse offers a variation on the artist's frequent fieldwork theme that reveals the inherent symbolism of plowing and harvesting in the agrarian United States during the Reconstruction years. The watercolor presumably depicts a young farmhand unhitching the plow from his horse at the end of a long day. Man with Plow Horse is a prime example of Homer's tendency to repurpose compositions; the principal motif of man, horse, and plow was transferred from a graphite drawing, then painted with transparent watercolor, allowing the artist's careful underdrawing to show through the thin veils of color. Boy and Horse Plowing is a freehand version of this composition.

Evidence indicates that Homer used carbon paper and similar copying methods from the late 1860s to the early 1880s to expedite his working process and explore subjects in different media. At times he may have sketched directly with a carbon paper “sandwich” to produce multiple copies of his work.