George Blake's Letter
Regarded as one of the great American Realists of the nineteenth century, Winslow Homer is known primarily for his large body of works in oil and watercolor. However, he also had an early career as a freelance illustrator, making drawings for wood engravings that were reproduced in mass-circulation periodicals such as Harper’s Weekly. In 1998, the Brooklyn Museum received a generous gift of more than 250 wood-engraved illustrations by Homer from Harvey Isbitts.
Homer was commissioned to create five illustrations for the serialized novel, Susan Fielding. Rooted in contrasts between city and country, wealth and poverty, virtue and duplicity, the novel is full of romantic intrigue. Orphaned and impoverished, Susan comes under the care of her elderly Uncle Adam in Brittany. Here, she reads a letter from her true love, George Blake, in which he entreats her for one final meeting before she marries her fiancé Tom Collinson. The novel ends happily, however, with Susan and George destined to be together because Collinson's shady past is revealed. Of the five illustrations Homer produced for this novel, only this one approaches his work in oils in terms of its pictorial strength and depth of feeling. Indeed, it bears striking similarity to a number of his canvases depicting solitary women dating from the early 1870s.
Sheet: 9 x 5 5/8 in. (22.9 x 14.3 cm)
Image: 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (16.5 x 11.4 cm)
Frame: 20 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (50.8 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm)
Lower left, below image: "Drawn by Winslow Homer."
Gift of Harvey Isbitts
Illustration for Annie Edwards's "Susan Fielding," from The Galaxy, January 1870, vol. XI, p. 258, frontispiece
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