Winslow Homer was known for being a painter of simple, everyday things. Learn more about this amazing artist in this free homeschool artist study. 

Talent! There’s no such thing as talent. What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous hard work in the right way. ~Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer’s Early Life

On February 24, 1836, in Boston, Massachusetts, Winslow Homer was born. Close to his mother from the start, Winslow Homer took on many of her traits. Quiet and strong-willed, Henrietta Homer’s most notable influence on the young Winslow was her amateur gift: painting with watercolors.

Boy Fishing

Under his mother’s tutelage, this legendary artist of the Realism movement began his artistic endeavors. Where his grades were average, it was clear from the start that Winslow’s talent for art exceeded even his mother’s skill. However, living in the age that he did, and working as a printmaker, Homer’s skill would find another outlet: painting the American Civil War. A deeper meaning is found in these paintings, and in this time he grew even further in the skills of an artist.

Prisoners from the Front

Winslow Homer’s Civil War Career

After the Civil War, Winslow Homer entered a period of his artistic career filled with his own experimentations. During a trip to France—where two of his paintings were on display—Homer acquired a certain appreciation for French art and began to adopt a similar style himself, often depicting everyday tasks. During his time spent in England, he became obsessively detailed in his pieces and more skilled in his art form. This is where he became the prolific artist that we know today, a painter of simple, everyday things.

Girl in the Hammock


Critics detested his continuous paintings of everyday life, believing them too simple for his talent. Yet with each art piece, his skills would shine through the simplicity until even the critics saw them. Later he began to paint with watercolors, pieces that were either too detailed or too simplistic, though he eventually mastered even that difficult and fluid art form.

Girl Carrying a Basket

Again, at first, critics hated his watercolors. But as some were shown to be masterworks, they were forced to see Winslow’s mastery of the brush. Perhaps motivated by a desire for the simplicity of those everyday things that he had painted, or perhaps by the tiring criticism that his art brought, Winslow became more and more isolated. And in that solitude, his artwork grew even more powerful and meaningful.

The Fog Warning

Winslow eventually moved to Maine, and he was near the ocean when he created his most famous works: depictions of the sea, sometimes in its vastness. Perhaps driven by his desire for solitude, the isolation of the sea—even its most dangerous places—might have appealed to the aging artist.

A Fresh Breeze

The Death of Homer’s Mother

After the death of his mother, who had always been his closest friend, Winslow Homer underwent a series of changes. Rather than remaining a ‘hermit with a brush’ by the sea, he traveled to the Caribbean and other warmer climates, where his works also shifted focus. A Garden in Nassau, painted in 1885, shows his newer, warmer focus, and the entirely fresh eyes that the Caribbean gave him.

A Garden in Nassau

A couple of years after his father’s death, by 1900, Winslow Homer had reached a point where his artwork brought him enough money to live comfortably. From then to 1910, at which time he died at the age of 74, Winslow Homer lived a life of comfort, continuing his watercolors with clear mastery.

The Four Leaf Clover

Winslow Homer ‘s pieces continue to inspire to this day, from their depictions of hard work in the heat of the day, to the perilous peaks of the sea, to the peace and calming of a warm summer afternoon.

Books recommended for further study…

Winslow Homer (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)Winslow Homer (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists)Winslow Homer (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)A Weekend with Winslow HomerA Weekend with Winslow HomerA Weekend with Winslow HomerWinslow Homer: An American VisionWinslow Homer: An American VisionWinslow Homer: An American VisionWinslow Homer: WatercolorsWinslow Homer: WatercolorsWinslow Homer: Watercolors

Homer Virtual Tours

Below is a video on The Life Line from Smarthistory:

Check out The Fog Warning (Halibut Fishing) from Smarthistory:

This video is about the Army Teamsters from Smarthistory:

Taking Sunflower to Teacher from Smarthistory:

For more project ideas, check out these Winslow Homer-inspired art projects here:

Sailboat Collage by Mary Making

In the Style of – Winslow Homer by Art For Small Hands

Ahoy Matey! by Art Gone Loco

Sail Boats by Artolazzi