Detail: Sanding Technique

The summer of 1883 was a period of intense artistic innovation for Homer. During this time, he experimented with new techniques, some of which he rarely, if ever, employed again. In this work, Homer used sandpaper to tease out clouds and mist from an even, blue-gray sky in Prout’s Neck, Breakers. Noninvasive analysis of the work’s surface revealed that silica, a sandpaper residue, is present throughout the sheet.

After applying wash across the background, Homer wiped it with a rag, using downward strokes to suggest rain. When the wash was dry, he selectively rubbed it with sandpaper, abrading both pigment and paper to reveal the white substrate below. This method created a speckled texture by removing pigment only from the highest points of the rough paper while allowing it to remain in the surrounding interstices. The amount of color abraded is directly related to the amount of pressure exerted on the sandpaper.

Detail of Prout’s Neck, Breakers, showing where Homer used sandpaper to create clouds and mist by abrading away pigment.