Winslow Homers "Breezing Up"

1873 masterpiece "Breezing Up", by Winslow Homer located in the

National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is an oil on canvas painting that
measures 23 3/13 X 38 1/6 in.. The primary subject of this painting is a man
with three boys in a small wooden sail boat that is moving along with what
appears to be a fairly choppy sea. At the center of this painting is the stern
of the sail boat. The oldest of the boys is sitting on the high end of the stern
with his knees up and his bare feet planted flat on the deck in order to keep
him from slipping down into the water. This image forms a powerful triangle in
the center of the painting. The boyÕs use of only one hand on the tiller line
combined with his relaxed posture suggest that he is very much at ease with his
responsibility of steering the boat. His face is only visible in a semi-profile
view which exposes his chin, left cheek, and eye socket. These features are well
defined against thick layers of puffy clouds which are lingering over the water.

Like the others in the boat he is facing away from the setting sun which causes
the light to reflect off the back of his long sleeved shirt and hat. Just to the
boyÕs right is the man in the boat who is presumably the father of the boys.

His seated position below the deck allows the viewer only to see his face
shoulders, arms, and hands. His red long sleeved shirt is the brightest color in
the painting, and his calloused hands show strength as he holds the halyard firm
in the cleat with a fully extended arm. Of the four people in the boat he is the
only one with a troubled look on his face. According to David Prown this is a
very common characteristic in HomerÕs work. He says: Although the adults of

HomerÕs world seem isolated, his children frolic together in a cheerful world
of laughter and mutuality. For Homer, growing up seems to imply a loss, a fall
from paradise, removal from happy, carefree innocence and high spirits to a
serious, lonely existence in which each man is an island unto himself. (Prown

86) This is the perfect description of the expressions of the people in this
painting. The children are clearly relaxed and content, but the father has an
expression that suggests that he has something weighing heavy on his mind, and
that he is receiving only temporary relief as he relaxes on the water with his
sons. The other two boys are relaxing up towards the bow of the boat. The older
of the two is stretched out across the deck covering the width of the bow with
his leather shoes hovering inches over the water. The youngest of the boys is
sitting up right on the deck with his feet resting inside the boat and he has a
pleasant look of deep thought on his face. Clearly all of these boys are relaxed
and content with their surroundings. Numerous fish inside of the boat suggest
that this group has had an afternoon of fishing and recreation. They are not
dressed for serious fishing, so there is a good chance they are out there
strictly for leisure. A building off the bow on the distant shore is barely
visible, and combined with the long shadows of the setting sun, it seems that
they are heading home. Homers soft blue sky and puffy white clouds take up 2/3
of the canvas, leaving only the bottom third for the water and the horizon. The
sky is completely empty except for a lone gull whoÕs wings are lit up by the
sun as is hovers directly in line with what appears to be a tiny illuminated
sail of another boat on the very distant horizon. Homer also has an uncommon
ability to recreate curves just as they would appear in nature. He uses this
ability to capture the shape and form of the rolling waves in the sea, by even
more than that he uses it to capture the human experience. The use of the
sunlight as it reflects off the cloths of the people in the boat adds to the
realistic nature of this painting. The wrinkles of white cotton shirts of the
boyÕs are accented brilliantly as the sun illuminates and caused shadows on
different parts of their arms. The four people in this painting express more