Infrared Detail: Preliminary graphite underdrawing

An infrared detail of the graphite underdrawing for The Gulf Stream reveals a significant change between the preliminary design and the final composition. In the infrared view, faint pencil lines run across the lower portion of the boat deck from lower left (near the shark’s fin) to upper right, ending halfway up the stern. Two more faint lines arch outward from a drain in the back of the boat, which is pictured as a light rectangle near the center of the stern. These were meant to indicate the water’s higher level on the deck and its consequent flow out of the back of the boat, as portrayed in Sharks (The Derelict), an established precedent for this watercolor. A few tentative, blue strokes along the lower deck show that Homer considered raising the water level—or sinking the ship, depending on one’s perspective—and then abandoned the idea. Instead, he settled on portraying an earlier point in the narrative, presenting a more indeterminate moment when the man’s unfortunate fate was suggested but not yet sealed.

Infrared detail of The Gulf Stream, showing Homer’s preliminary drawing in graphite (1.5 – 1.73 µm).