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Spring Farm Work--Grafting

Winslow Homer

American Art

A solitary country youth is framed high in the still-bare branches of a fruit tree in spring, intent on inserting shoots, or grafts, into slits in the branches that he has pruned. Grafting, a method of improving the stock of fruit trees, here embodies the human control over nature of good husbandry. Below, we see a farmyard with neatly stacked hay mounds and tidy outbuildings, reinforcing the sense of a well-regulated precinct of agricultural industry. Accurate but idealized images of land under cultivation like this one by Winslow Homer operated as metaphors for social harmony and good governance, and were often set up as contrasts to and critiques of modern life in the city.

Regarded as one of the great American Realists of the nineteenth century, 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.
MEDIUM Wood engraving
DATES 1870
DIMENSIONS Image: 7 x 9 1/8 in. (17.8 x 23.2 cm) Sheet: 16 1/8 x 11 in. (41 x 27.9 cm) Frame: 28 3/4 x 22 3/4 x 1 1/2 in. (73 x 57.8 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Harvey Isbitts
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910). Spring Farm Work--Grafting, 1870. Wood engraving, Image: 7 x 9 1/8 in. (17.8 x 23.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Harvey Isbitts, 1998.105.148 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1998.105.148_bw.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 1998.105.148_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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