Winslow Homer in England


From the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Bequest of Julia B. Engel. Acc. No: 1984.58.2./DR


Fishermen Beaching a Boat, Cullercoats, England

"Fishermen Beaching a Boat,
Cullercoats, England" - 1881

This was part of the Cooper/Hewitt National Design Museum Smithsonian Institution, New York,
Gift of Charles Savage Homer, Jr. Acc. No: 1913.12.40

Looking toward Tynemouth with the Watchhouse

"Looking toward Tynemouth with the Watchhouse"

Photo by American Artist Peter R. Hornby © 2002-2003

In 1999 I visited Cullercoats to experience the same atmosphere that Homer had during his stay in 1881-1882. I also wanted to observe the tonal range of grey inherent on the North Sea coast.

During this time I walked 25 miles of coast, as well as explored the village of Cullercoats. I was also very fortunate to go through a February storm and got a taste of the North Sea's fury.

I've always maintained that if you wish to take the world's great photographs, look at the worlds great paintings. Winslow Homer was an inspiration to me in my youth and continues to be in my middle years.

— P.R. Hornby, Publisher

About the Book

In March 1881, Winslow Homer, already well established as one of the foremost American artists of his time, travelled to England in search of new subjects for his brush. He found his way to the small, remote, wind-swept fishing village of Cullercoats in Northumberland on the North East coast where he lived for a year and a half, making numerous sketches, drawings, watercolours and oil paintings. He was ten miles from the large city of Newcastle upon Tyne, and about two miles from the fashionable Victorian resort of Tynemouth.

Although much has been written about Homer for more than a century, only in recent years have serious, detailed studies begun to examine Homer's English sojourn. Most active in this field was the late John Boon, a local historian and resident of Tynemouth. Without John Boon's help, advice, and encouragement, I would not have progressed far with this volume. His diligent research and enthusiasm prompted me to organise and stage, with the help of the members of the Cullercoats Local History Society, an exhibition in June 1981 in celebration of the Centenary of Homer's arrival in Cullercoats. The exhibition consisted of photographs of many of Homer's English works kindly provided by several American museums and galleries, together with a selection of colour reproductions of some of his best-known paintings. Also on view were many original paintings by some of Homer's Cullercoats contemporaries including Robert Jobling, Henry Hetherington Emmerson, George Horton, John Charlton and Bernard Benedict Hemy. These works of art were augmented by many photographs of Cullercoats and its fisherfolk, some being on public display for the first time.

The exhibition attracted extensive coverage by the media and was such a thoroughgoing success that the preparation of a book specifically devoted to Homer's English sojourn seemed to be in order. New avenues of research suggested by the exhibition were followed up and many proved to be fruitful. Perhaps the most important discovery was the Adamson Manuscript. During her visit to the 1981 exhibition, Linda Greenley, a local resident, told me that a friend, Dorothy Mitchell, had told her that her uncle, Alan Adamson had become friendly with Homer during his stay in Cullercoats and had returned to the United States with him in 1882. Dorothy Mitchell had died some years earlier, but Linda Greenley had the address of a cousin. I suggested that she wrote to this cousin, John Bulcock, and he confirmed that his uncle, Alan Adamson, had emigrated to the United States in 1882. He also furnished us with the name and address of Alan Adamson's daughter Constance Overesch, who lived in Michigan. Linda Greenley entered into a correspondence with Constance who was interested to hear of my book project and provided us with some useful information. Then, following the death of her elder brother, Constance discovered some Homer memorabilia, including the essay, amongst his possessions, and forwarded the items to us for publication in this book. The essay by Alan Adamson is published in full, along with some of the other items that were sent to us by Constance Overesch.

The Catalog section of the book lists the 170 works by Homer that I have been able to identify so far as originating from his English sojourn. The majority of the catalog entries are illustrated with an image of the work.

The aim of the book is to present a historically accurate account of Homer's stay in Cullercoats. I do not pretend to treat his art critically, though in presenting the most complete list of Homer's English works ever published in one volume, I have taken the opportunity to correct erroneous information that has reached print over the past century.

The preparation of this study has been a labour of love. I hope that my readers will gain at least as much enjoyment from reading it as I have had in writing it.

— Tony Harrison