The 1880s witnessed a major shift in Homer's art from realistic images of modern and rural American life to poetic meditations on humankind's epic struggle against nature. His move from New York City to coastal communities (eventually settling in Prout's Neck, Maine) brought him into close contact with the sea—the primary arena for such struggles—and the people who made their livelihood on it. During this period, the artist also tried his hand at etching, which was currently enjoying a revival led by James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
Homer's new subject matter and medium converge in Eight Bells, one of the finest examples of his work in etching. Based on an oil painting, this dramatically cropped composition depicts two New England fishermen attempting to find their ship's bearings in the midst of stormy seas. (The title refers to bells that rang from shore at set times during the day.) Homer's masterly use of patterns of finely incised lines creates a wide range of tones, textures, and forms in this powerful image.
- Artist: Winslow Homer, American, 1836-1910
- Medium: Etching of black ink on light beige, medium thick, smooth textured wove paper
- Dates: 1887
- Dimensions: Sheet: 23 7/8 x 29 3/8 in. (60.6 x 74.6 cm) Image: 18 15/16 x 24 1/2 in. (48.1 x 62.2 cm) (show scale)
- Markings: Framer's marks on verso in graphite
- Signature: Signed lower right in graphite: "Winslow Homer"
- Inscriptions: Inscribed in plate below image center: "Copyrighted 1887 by C. Klackner 17 E. 17th St. NY"
- Collections:American Art
- Museum Location: This item is not on view
- Accession Number: 2003.26
- Credit Line: Bequest of Anita Steckler
- Rights Statement: No known copyright restrictions
- Caption: Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910). Eight Bells, 1887. Etching of black ink on light beige, medium thick, smooth textured wove paper, Sheet: 23 7/8 x 29 3/8 in. (60.6 x 74.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Anita Steckler, 2003.26
- Record Completeness: Best (87%)