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    The Water Fan

    A work made of watercolor, with blotting and touches of scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough twill-textured, ivory wove paper.
    CC0 Public Domain Designation

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    • A work made of watercolor, with blotting and touches of scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough twill-textured, ivory wove paper.

    Date:

    1898/99

    Artist:

    Winslow Homer
    American, 1836-1910

    About this artwork

    The Water Fan depicts a young black man intently searching for coral using a glass-bottomed bucket. Referred to as a “water glass” or “sponge glass,” this device was used to stabilize the surface of moving water in order to improve visibility. Homer may have been attracted to the subject because it draws attention to the constantly moving surface of the water as well as its transparency, aspects of the sea that especially intrigued him in the Bahamas. Like The Sponge Diver (1898/99; MFA Boston), this work originally had more visible red washes in the water, hinting at the pink coral beneath the surface. While these areas have faded, the fluid strokes of darker blue over layers of transparent turquoise are effective in suggesting the play of light, both direct and reflected, over water.

    Homer depicted light shimmering on the ocean using watercolor paper with a heavy twill texture in The Water Fan. The diagonal pattern of the sheet, which runs from top right to lower left, was imparted during manufacture by the papermaker’s woven wire screen that supported the paper pulp during sheet formation. The opposite side is relatively smooth. A truncated watermark reading “J WHAT,” for J Whatman, the manufacturer, reads from the textured side, indicating the side intended for painting.

    Currently Off View

    Prints and Drawings

    Artist

    Winslow Homer

    Title

    The Water Fan

    Origin

    United States

    Date

    1898–1899

    Medium

    Watercolor, with blotting and touches of scraping, over graphite, on thick, rough twill-textured, ivory wove paper

    Inscriptions

    Signed recto, lower right, in brush and black watercolor: "Homer" Inscribed verso, lower left edge, in graphite: "7073"; upper center, in graphite: "The Water Glass/Nassau"

    Dimensions

    374 × 534 mm

    Credit Line

    Gift of Dorothy A., John A., Jr., and Christopher Holabird in memory of William and Mary Holabird

    Reference Number

    1972.190

    Extended information about this artwork

    Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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