‘Winslow Homer’s Empire State: Houghton Farm and Beyond’ opens at SUArt Galleries Aug. 18 and runs through Oct. 11
Jaime Winne Alvarez
Beginning Aug. 18, the Syracuse University Art Galleries will present the exhibition “Winslow Homer’s Empire State: Houghton Farm and Beyond.” It is the first exhibition to examine the crucial turning point in the career of American artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910), a period when he began to achieve stylistic maturity. The show is free and open to the public. Complete information and related programming is available by visiting the official exhibition website at http://homer.syr.edu.
“Winslow Homer’s Empire State” consists of 27 works by Homer in addition to one supplemental object, a book by American author Edward Payson Roe. The works by Homer include watercolors, drawings, wood engravings, oil paintings and ceramic tiles depicting geographic locations across eastern New York State, including Houghton Farm, the Catskills, the Adirondacks and East Hampton. On loan from SU Special Collections, Roe’s 1885 work “Driven Back to Eden” (New York: Dodd, Mead) includes a chapter describing a visit to Houghton Farm.
Following the Syracuse showing, 15 of the works and Roe’s book will go on view Nov. 9 at the Louise and Bernard Palitz Gallery, 11 E. 61st St., Manhattan. Located at SU’s Joseph I. Lubin House, the show runs through Dec. 6.
The exhibition is organized by David Tatham, emeritus professor of fine arts at SU, and David L. Prince, associate director and curator of collections at the SUArt Galleries. Tatham, a noted Homer scholar, serves as guest curator. Most recently, he contributed an essay, “Winslow Homer in Quebec,” to the 2003 exhibition “Casting a Spell: Winslow Homer, Artist and Angler” organized by the Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth, Texas) and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He is the author of several landmark books on the artist, including “Winslow Homer in the Adirondacks” (Syracuse University Press, 1996) and “Winslow Homer and the Pictorial Press” (Syracuse University Press, 2003). Prince has been curator of SU’s permanent collection since 1986 and was named associate director of the SUArt Galleries in 2006. His primary focus is on 19th-century American art.
“Winslow Homer’s Empire State” focuses on the period in Homer’s life when he spent time at Houghton Farm in Mountainville, N.Y. A rustic summer residence located in the state’s lower Hudson River Valley, the farm was owned by principal patron and childhood friend Lawson Valentine.
“Houghton Farm held Homer’s interest for significant periods in 1878 and 1879, years at the very center of one of the most adventurous episodes of his career,” says Tatham. “The paintings and drawings Homer produced during the period leave little doubt that he found the farm and people associated with it satisfying in both professional and personal ways.”
From 1878-79, Homer produced a large and highly distinctive body of rural subjects-nearly 150 pieces in all. He used a small number of motifs in these works, among them children, sheep and shepherdesses. Although treated in many variants, the motifs he used serve to unify this body of work. The term “Houghton Farm” has come to mean both a discrete group of rural subjects and, more importantly, a manner distinctive to the year 1878.
The art works in “Winslow Homer’s Empire State” come from galleries, private collections and museums across the country. Notable institutional lenders include the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Adirondack Museum, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie.
Both the exhibition and accompanying catalogue will contribute new information to the study of Homer and the field of American art. The comprehensive and fully illustrated catalogue will be published by Syracuse University Press and features essays by Tatham and Prince. Tatham presents original information on Houghton Farm and the images Homer created during his time there, while Prince offers a brief biography of Homer’s early career as artist and illustrator for the pictorial press. The catalogue will be available for purchase through the gallery store and the SU Bookstore.
To date, principal support for “Winslow Homer’s Empire State” has been provided by the New York State Council on the Arts. Funding for the exhibition catalogue has been provided by the Furthermore Foundation (an initiative of the J.M. Kaplan Fund), Syracuse Symposium/The SU Humanities Center and the Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor (an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation initiative).
The SUArt Galleries will host a free opening night reception from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 20, as part of Syracuse’s citywide art open Third Thursday (Th3). Tatham will present opening remarks at 5:15 p.m. Following his presentation, tours and a catered reception will take place. Patrons are welcome to view the exhibition until the gallery closes at 8 p.m. The reception is open to the public.
A symposium, “Winslow Homer in the 1870s: A Time of Crisis in American Culture,” will complement the exhibition. The event, funded by Syracuse Symposium/The SU Humanities Center and the Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor, will be held Sept. 25-26 on the SU campus. The symposium brings together Homer scholars from across the nation to explore the decade in American history that witnessed the end of Reconstruction, endured a major depression, and saw dramatic changes in art and culture.
The first day will be devoted to secondary school students and will feature lectures and activities oriented toward high school curricula. Area high school students and the general public are invited to attend a special performance in Hendricks Chapel on Friday, Sept. 25, at 10 a.m. by Robb Goldstein, a performer from Albany who will present “Winslow Homer and the Democratic Vista.” The original production combines spoken word, music and imagery, and considers the impact of Homer’s pictorial press images on American culture. The second day will be geared toward university students, art historians and the general public.
The symposium will cultivate further scholarship on the artist and the corresponding time period in American and New York state history, in addition to offering another educational opportunity for guests of the SUArt Galleries. For more information on the symposium and a complete calendar of events, visit the official exhibition website.
Gallery hours for “Winslow Homer’s Empire State: Houghton Farm and Beyond” are Tuesdays-Sundays from 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. The gallery is closed on Mondays. The SUArt Galleries is accessible to persons with disabilities.
The gallery will offer one free guided tour each day at 1 p.m. and on Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. The tour is open to the public. Tour lengths generally last no longer than 45 minutes.
Paid parking is available for weekday visitors in any SU pay lot. Free parking for weekend and evening visitors is available in the Q4 lot, located on College Place. Patrons should notify the attendant that they are visiting the SUArt Galleries. Evening and weekend parking is on a space-available basis and may be restricted during events held at the Carrier Dome.
Patrons attending “Winslow Homer’s Empire State” are encouraged to ride Centro’s Connective Corridor Shuttle Bus (Centro Route # 543) to visit the SUArt Galleries. The shuttle stops at all marked Centro bus stops along the Connective Corridor and is free. For more information and to view the shuttle schedule, visit http://connectivecorridor.syr.edu/corridor-shuttle-bus.
The SUArt Galleries strives to provide the best possible environment for art appreciation and scholarly development. No photography will be allowed in exhibition spaces. For approved, press-ready images, visit the exhibition website.
The SUArt Galleries, accessible through the Shaffer Art Building on the SU campus, enhances the cultural environment of SU and the Syracuse area through meaningful educational experiences and encounters with the University’s permanent collection and traveling exhibitions. It is the main campus venue for the visual arts and home of the University’s extensive permanent collection. The facility hosts a variety of temporary and permanent exhibitions throughout the year. The SUArt Galleries and the Palitz Gallery are members of SU’s Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC).