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Childhood Depicted in Winslow Homer Paintings

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The greatest American painter, Winslow Homer, is known for his landscape and seascape paintings. However, he had multiple talents that got him fame. From illustrations to watercolor painting, Homer excelled in everything he created.

Winslow Homer is known for his vivid imagery and themes, especially those in line with the Civil War. Homer was also keen to paint women, especially children, on different occasions. One of the most recurring images in Winslow Homer’s paintings is that of children, as they were the artist’s main interest. As a result, Homer produced three hundred images of children encompassing paintings and drawings. 

Although childhood was an important theme investigated by several artists of the nineteenth century, the work by Homer stood out. Homer painted the simple innocence of children. These kids have been showcased during play and while at school or work. After careful observation, however, other works of the artist create a contrast between illusion and perception and his focus on investigating themes of man and nature. This is something that differentiates him from other artists. 

While discussing childhood being Homer’s one favorite theme to paint, let us look at some of his famous paintings that revolve around children. 

Ship-Building, Gloucester Harbor

Although Winslow Homer’s sea paintings have examples of the quality of artwork that Homer artist creates, you can see the famous painter Winslow Homer skills in watercolor painting and drawing through his artwork Ship-Building, Gloucester Harbor. which showcases four boys who gather in a shipyard after school. This was a usual trend for kids who would construct chip houses, collect chips, observe the people working around and carve miniatures. This was not only an exciting piece of art but hope for America to resume its earlier leading role in building ships. 

Children Under a Palm

It was not only Civil War and its related events that inspired Homer to incorporate kids into his artworks, but their daily lives and routines were also at the center of his paintings. Created in 1885, painter Winslow Homer created Children under a palm showcasing the kids of the colonial governor of the Bahamas, the place where the painting was created. 

Winslow Homer - Under the Coco Palm
Winslow Homer – Under the Coco Palm

These three kids were said to be present at a fancy-dress party where they had dressed in Arabic costumes. Lady Blake asked Homer to paint this portrait. Olive Blake is in the center with her brothers on her side. As astonishing as it may sound, the painting appeared in garbage dumps in 1987. It was picked from there and was given to Selina Varney after a series of conflicts.

Snap the Whip! (1872)

After the Civil War, Winslow Homer created drawings about kids, kids’ education, and their schools. In Winslow Homer watercolor, Snap the Whip, the artist paints the free souls. You see young kids holding hands with mixed impressions pulling, running, and falling, enjoying their recess time in a serene green environment. However, as you notice the red schoolhouse situated at a little distance, it appears to be, and the painting instead sets an air of melancholy and nostalgia. 

Winslow Homer - Snap the Whip
Winslow Homer – Snap the Whip

If you look at it closely, you will see the ill-fitted clothes of the kids with bare feet, giving you a hint of destitution. Such unique Winslow Homer artworks that keep the children at their core give birth to a ray of hope after the destruction caused by the Civil War. Such paintings, however, promote the need for a more stable, powerful nation. In contrast to his usual war paintings and Winslow Homer’s seascapes, the work Snap the Whip is drawn with vivid imagery and vibrant colors, enhancing the whole mood attached to the innocence of childhood.

Sunday Morning in Virginia 

Winslow Homer painting shows three students, their teacher, and an old woman in the slave cabin. It would be correct to say that Winslow draws a contrasting image of the old and the young generation. 

At the same time, the artist explicitly focuses on the attire of his subjects. For example, you see a teacher teaching Bible to the kids. She does not look as if she is otherwise related to the children as a family member, which is noticeable through the ragged clothing of the kids. Homer has, however, created several pieces of art encompassing children, teachers, and educational institutes. 

The old woman, however, looks close to the kids but is still detached. She shows no interest in what kids are learning, which might hint at her painful history in line with seeking education. In addition, the lady is wearing a red shawl. Homer uses this stark color in several works, showcasing the danger coming along.

Apple Picking

During Winslow Homer’s visit to the Houghton Farm, the artist created about 30 watercolors painting children and the farm. The work Apple Picking is amongst these watercolors that he created where he specifically emphasized colors and the essence of light. 

Homer plays around with the colors in line with the sunlight, and this effect can easily be seen in the skirts of the apple pickers. Homer used strokes from darkest to lightest color, creating a stark contrast between the branches and the apples. It is a simple artwork without any particular story but with specific emphasis on the tones and techniques used. 


Winslow Homer is famous for his artworks and watercolor paintings and is known to work on themes about the Civil War. Women and children have been a recurrent theme dominating his artwork. The artist loved to paint kids playing, enjoying school, and spending time observing work and people around. The essence of the artworks produced by Winslow Homer lies in the fact that it continues to result in discussion even today. The great artist has produced tremendous work and continues to be an essential part of American history. 

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