I work hard every afternoon from 4:30 to 4:40, that being the limit of the light I represent, the title of my picture being Early Evening.”
— Winslow Homer writing about Early Evening/Sailors Take Warning, over painted many times 1881-1907, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
— Winslow Homer. Breezing Up (A Fair Wind). 1873–76. Oil on canvas.
Gift of the W.L. and May T. Mellon Foundation. National Gallery of Art, Washington
Winslow Homer, a Boston native, came to Gloucester in the summer of 1873, arriving from New York by train. He stayed at a hotel on the corner of Main Street and Western Avenue. and focused on pencil sketches. Years later in 1880, Homer returned by train to Gloucester, looking to break free of his New York studio and further explore his experimentation with watercolors in the open air. Homer stayed on Ten Pound Island, which is situated in the center of Gloucester’s bustling harbor. He stayed in a granite outbuilding (no longer on the island), along with the light keeper and passing vessels and fishermen. This is where he produced many studies for future works and paintings that would also be produced later years in oils.
Homer is known best for his marine subjects, and they are among the most powerful and expressive of late 19th-century American art. A drawing from that working summer — a portrait of William B. Astor’s yacht Ambassadress—is part of the Cape Ann Museum’s permanent collection.
— Winslow Homer with “The Gulf Stream” in his studio, ca. 1900, gelatin silver print, by an unidentified photographer. (Bowdoin College Museum of Art)
A commonly told tale is disputed by the Cape Ann historian Joseph Garland, who wrote that it was more likely named for the number of sheep pens (also known as pounds) on the island, which was reserved in the early days for “rams onlie.”
Ten Pound Island gained notoriety in 1817 when several people reported seeing a large sea serpent in the vicinity. One of the witnesses was future light house keeper Amos Story, who said:
It was between the hours of twelve and one o’clock when I first saw him, and he continued in sight for an hour and a half. I was setting on the shore, and was about twenty rods from him when he was the nearest to me. His head appeared shaped much like that of the sea turtle, and he carried his head from ten to twelve inches above the surface of the water. His head at that distance appeared larger than the head of any dog I ever saw.
Ten Pound Island is located near the eastern end of Gloucester Harbor and its historic lighthouse is on the National Register. On May 15, 1820, Congress allocated $9,000 to erect two lighthouses, Ten Pound Island Light, at the entrance to Gloucester’s inner harbor, and another near Salem, MA.
Amos Story was the first lighthouse keeper, hired in 1833. The island also served as a home and studio for Winslow Homer (1880); a base for a Federal Fish Hatchery(1889 until 1954) which released over a billion fish eggs annually — mostly cod — to replenish stocks. One fisherman recalled, “they’d go aboard them gillnetters and squeeze the ripe spawn out of these fish. And then they’d take a male fish and they’d squeeze him and got so much milt.”; and a Coast Guard station.
The Island also served other uses, during Prohibition in the United States (1920-1933), Cape Ann was known as the Atlantic Coast “delta” for smuggling contraband hidden beneath codfish. In reprisal, the first Coast Guard seaplane station was established on the island with an “old crate” scout plane and a surplus tent for a “hangar.” Three planes and a 70 foot speed boat were soon added to thwart the many rum-runners, but “the ocean is so big, and the patrol boats had to replenish fuel and supplies, that it was often a heart breaking task.” Smugglers recalled cannon balls whistling across their bows and outrunning machine gun fire.
Today, the conical cast-iron tower is now topped with a modern optic lens. The granite house-where artist Winslow Homer stayed during the summer of 1880-no longer stands. Although there is no longer a lighthouse keeper and the island is overgrown, locals swim or row to the island and enjoy the small beach area at low tide.
Vintage Postcard showing a harbor view and Ten Pound Island
Gift of the WL and May T Mellon Foundation. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Good Morning Gloucester
In this historical documentary you may get visual sense of what Homer may have seen during his summer visits to Gloucester. Portuguese fisherman, at work cod-fishing from their Dory, often times in rough seas.
To the right is an oil painting by Homer titled “The Fog Warning”, 1885, oil on canvas . The Fog Warning shows a single fisherman rowing a dory with two or more large halibut weighting down the stern; the man has paused in his rowing as the boat crests a wave, and he looks off in the direction of a large sailing vessel on the lower portion of the sky. The turbulent seas and fishermen have been a consistent theme in Homers work see his other pieces, “Lost on the Grand Banks”, “The Herring Net” for similar subject matter.
— This painting, The Fog Warning, 1885, by Winslow Homer, resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
(Documentário da RTP2 sobre a pesca do Bacalhau)