At the age of 19, Homer was apprenticed to J. H. Bufford’s lithographic firm in Boston. Although the superior quality of his work earned him more and more responsibility, he found the work stifling and tedious, and upon attaining his majority he left the shop to become a freelance illustrator. In 1859 Homer moved to New York City, where he studied briefly at the National Academy of Design, took a few painting lessons with Frederic Rondel, and set up a studio at the 10th Street Studio Building. For the next 17 years, his major source of income came from drawings for illustrated weekly magazines, such as Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, and Appleton’s Journal. He devoted increasing attention to painting, however, and in 1865 was elected a member of the National Academy of Design and was further distinguished by the exhibition of his Prisoners at the Front in the Paris Exposition of 1866. Homer went to Paris that year, but little is known of his activities during the ten months he spent abroad. Domestic travel for the next 15 years included trips to the White Mountains in the summers of 1868 and 1869, the Adirondacks, and Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1873. It is significant that, when Homer returned to Europe in 1881, he did not go back to Paris, which was bursting with American art students at the ateliers. He chose, instead, the small fishing community of Tynemouth, on the cold gray northeast coast of England. Following his return home in 1882, Homer moved from his New York studio to the rugged coast of Prout’s Neck, Maine. For the remainder of his life this was his home, though he continued seasonal travels to Quebec and the Adirondacks in the summer months, and to Florida, Bermuda, and Nassau in the Bahamas in the winter.
He exhibited almost annually at the Brooklyn Art Association, and the National Academy of Design. He was a member of the Century Association from 1865 until his death on September 29, 1910. He is buried in a family plot in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Charles O. Vogel
New Hampshire Scenery