Digital Simulation: Original appearance of For to Be a Farmer's Boy

New evidence from colored washes that are now faded provides the opportunity to create digital simulations to approximate the unfaded appearance of three watercolors: For to Be a Farmer’s Boy, North Woods Club, Adirondacks, and The Sponge Diver. The simulations are not meant to recreate individual brushstrokes and other delicacies of Homer’s hand. Because many factors in the aging of an artwork, such as differential fading rates for various pigments present and shifts in paper tone, make it impossible to know a watercolor’s true original appearance, the simulations are intended only to give a sense of the color balance in the compositions prior to fading and allow consideration of compositional content that was formerly lost.

This digital simulation was created using Adobe Photoshop CS3 software. After identifying the pigments Homer used in the sky, colorimetric measurements were taken using Gretag-MacBeth Eye-One Pro colorimeter and Eye-One Share software of unfaded, contemporaneous chrome yellow, pink madder, and vermillion watercolor swatches from a Winsor and Newton watercolor handbook (Taylor, 1887). From the measurements L*a*b* color values were assigned to each pigment. Stereomicroscope examination of the piece determined that the colored washes originally covered the sky and extended into the background hills. This area was digitally selected and filled with three, overlapping, semi-transparent colored layers corresponding with the L*a*b* color values for each pigment. Based on similar compositions, it is likely Homer modulated his washes across the sky, but no evidence was found to direct including such color variation in this simulation.