Detail: Faded red pigment in sky

Unfortunately, some of the most vivid transparent watercolors Homer used were vulnerable to fading from light exposure. Red lake pigments manufactured by fixing an organic dyestuff to a colorless substrate, such as the cochineal varieties prepared from particular insect bodies, were among the most susceptible.

Homer probably used a red lake in The Lone Boat, North Woods Club, Adirondacks. This is surmised from the knowledge that red lake pigments turn yellow as they fade; it is likely the pale, yellow-brown washes in the center and upper right of the sky were originally vibrant, luminous red. This color would have more accurately rendered the red light at sunset, illuminating the bottoms of the clouds. The original color is preserved along the top edge where pigment accumulated more densely and may have been protected from light by the edge of a frame.

Detail of The Lone Boat, showing a faded red passage in the sky. The original vibrant red pigment is evident along the upper right edge, where it was protected from fading.