"Orrin, Make Haste, I Am Perishing!"
Regarded as one of the great American Realists of the nineteenth century, Winslow Homer is known primarily for his large body of works in oil and watercolor. However, he also had an early career as a freelance illustrator, making drawings for wood engravings that were reproduced in mass-circulation periodicals such as Harper’s Weekly. In 1998, the Brooklyn Museum received a generous gift of more than 250 wood-engraved illustrations by Homer from Harvey Isbitts.
Homer drew five illustrations for the serialized novel, Beechdale, by Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune (writing under the pseudonym Marion Harland). The novel, featuring the young heroine Jessie, is a romantic tale centering on duty, false love, and moral conflict. Here, Jessie clings desperately to a tree trunk in the chill waters into which she plunged when the rail of the old wooden bridge collapsed under her weight. Moments earlier she had contemplated the bleakness of her situation—engaged to one man (Roy) while attracted to his cousin (Orrin). Now, however, she realizes how precious life is and calls for Orrin to rescue her. The emotional oppressiveness is heightened by the shape of the bridge, which confines Jessie within the compositional space. As in later works, Homer lavished a great deal of attention here on purely abstract passages of the composition such as the reflective and transparent properties of the water.
Image: 4 3/4 x 7 in. (12.1 x 17.8 cm)
Sheet: 5 3/4 x 8 7/8 in. (14.6 x 22.5 cm)
Frame: 15 x 20 x 1 1/2 in. (38.1 x 50.8 x 3.8 cm)
Gift of Harvey Isbitts
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