Thursday, January 16, 2014

Realism (pt. 4)

Homer's paintings are frequently poignant and thematically simplistic.  They lack the grandeur of Romanticism because artistic Realism moved more toward honest, uncomplicated renderings of the simple lives of ordinary people—not like G√©ricault.  This painting, entitled Fog Warning, is an exemplary model of Realism in art.
This is a very intriguing painting because Homer has here captured an interesting and instantaneous moment of time.  A lone fisherman at sea is rowing farther out after having already reeled in two promising catches already.  By the looks of the two fish in his boat, he is having a pretty good day at fishing so far, but all that is about to change in the flash of a glance.  He turns his head, perhaps at a sudden noise of thunder or else just out of sheer luck, and sees a mighty storm on the horizon.  The hurricane is fast approaching, and one unfortunate boat in the distance already appears in danger, a forewarning of destruction to anyone found too far out in these waters over the next few hours.  We can see, based on his posture, that the man in the boat is paddling out to sea, but once having seen the stormy clouds coming his way, he is about to turn around and row quickly back to shore.  The painting Homer created is of the split second before the fisherman turns his boat around, the moment when he looks and realizes that his time is up for that day; and he must start heading back to safety before it's too late.
The fisherman is a common individual; he is certainly no aristocrat or church deacon.  The painting is a model of Realist artistic theory for this reason.  We're just looking at a normal man, a fisherman, and there is both everything and nothing Romantic about that.  We see a symbol of the middle class in his actual profession and in his actual style of dress, yet we perhaps do not view a scene like this without remembering what other common men were simple fishermen before their lives turned around dramatically by one Man to becoming "fishers of men."  In that sense, you can find some small elements of Romanticism within some Realist works.

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