Waiting for Calls on New-Year's Day
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.
The custom of being “at home” to receive New Year’s Day callers is featured in this composition, which captures the varying moods of anticipation and boredom displayed by the elegantly attired women. As an 1870 article stated, “The hospitalities of the day devolve entirely upon the ladies, who remain at home to receive any gentlemen friends that call to pay the compliments of the season.” The dejected aspect of the seated young woman hints that a small domestic drama takes place. The girl is separate from her companions, not only because she is the only one seated, but also because she is the only “Homer type”: her clothing is less elaborate, and she rests in a simple wooden chair that does not match the other formal, upholstered furniture. Such deliberate moves to differentiate the outward character of this one woman are indicative of the creative energy that Homer often invested in his commercial efforts, and demonstrate why his drawings are of such lasting interest.
Image: 9 1/8 x 12 in. (23.2 x 30.5 cm)
Sheet: 11 x 16 in. (27.9 x 40.6 cm)
Frame: 16 3/4 x 22 3/4 x 1 1/2 in. (42.5 x 57.8 x 3.8 cm)
Gift of Harvey Isbitts
Page from Harper's Bazar: A Repository of Fashion, Pleasure, and Instruction, January 2, 1869, vol. II, p. 9
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