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Homer Dodge Martin

(1836—1897)


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(1836–97).

Painter. Almost exclusively interested in landscape, he first worked within the Hudson River School aesthetic but later responded to the examples of John La Farge and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. His career culminated in a personal style indebted to Barbizon precedents and, eventually, impressionism. His best-known painting, View on the Seine: Harp of the Winds (Metropolitan Museum, 1893–95), recalls rural France. Memorable for its distinctive, harp-shaped frieze of graceful poplars, it combines poetic retrospection with impressionist-influenced brushwork in the subdued harmonies of tonalism. Born in Albany, New York, and mostly self-taught, Martin received early encouragement from Erastus Dow Palmer and briefly studied with James MacDougal Hart before moving to New York in the early 1860s. Favoring wilderness scenery, he generally undertook summer sketching expeditions, from 1864 frequently visiting the Adirondack Mountains. The panoramic Lake Sanford (Century Association, New York, 1870) combines detailed observation of selected, unidealized foreground features with an overcast sky and indistinct distance, producing a brooding, even melancholy effect quite distinct from Hudson River School optimism. A growing interest in La Farge's poetic subjectivity and decorative form found reinforcement during his first trip to Europe in 1876. Besides visiting France, where he particularly admired Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's work, in London he befriended Whistler, who apparently stimulated his subsequently frequent use of watercolor. By the early 1880s, when he resided in Normandy for several years, he had largely abandoned his interest in documenting natural detail, in favor of concentrating on the aesthetic issues of form, color, and expressive brushwork that interested progressive American artists of the day. After returning to the United States in 1886, in 1893 he settled permanently in St. Paul, Minnesota. As his eyesight and then his general health deteriorated during his final decade, he regularly based his work on sketches and memories, sometimes dating from years before, as his art addressed the reverie of nature, rather than its reality.

Subjects: Art.


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