More about Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)

  • All
  • Info
  • Shop


Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) can definitely be considered one of Winslow Homer’s most famous and influential paintings.

It combines his love for the ocean with a universal human sensibility that we can all relate to, no matter who we are or where we come from. 

Homer began the painting a few years after a trip to Paris. And he really flexed what he learned there onto the canvas in a way he hadn’t before. For example, the subject of the painting is right in your face. There’s a small sailboat way in the background, but its position in the painting is only there to reinforce the boat we should be looking at. You take one look at it and you already know that it isn’t as important. But it goes a long way in legitimizing the scene Homer tries to create. 

As Homer often did, he warmed up for Breezing Up by getting familiar with the theme and subject in sketches and variations of the same scene with other forms of painting. One of the better known and most similar versions to Breezing Up is a watercolor study he did called Sailing the Catboat. After messing around and tweaking the overall idea for a little bit, he finally settled on what you’re laying your eyes on right now: A rich scene painted with oil on canvas. That’s the only way we can get those choppy waves to look so realistic. 

Art critics and historians who are smarter than me would say that the themes present in the painting were exactly what people needed at the time. Breezing Up depicts a universally human scene, as well as a uniquely American one. In the painting, we see an older man guiding what you’d assume are his three sons. They steer the boat in the turbulent waters as the father undoubtedly shouts directions. It’s a strong look at one generation passing down knowledge and the means of survival to another. 

We seem to be catching the tail end of the scene, at least from the perspective of the painting. As seen by the top left corner, the boat is well on its way out of frame, suggesting that the boys are doing alright, and they’re on their way to getting the tools that they’ll need to survive as they get older. This heartwarming familial theme, coupled with Homer finishing the painting on the centennial of the United States’ birth gave a little bit of hope to a country still healing from its wounds from a decade prior during the Civil War. 


Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)

Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) is an oil painting by American artist Winslow Homer. It depicts a catboat called the Gloucester chopping through that city's harbor under "a fair wind" (Homer's original title). Inside the boat are a man, three boys, and their catch.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)