If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:4:17

Video transcript

the Dory is riding up the great swell and the fisherman is taking that moment to make sure that he can see the ship he's got to reach we're looking at Winslow homers the fog warning from 1885 and that rowboat is tipped all the way forward that swell that the boat is riding on his pie and he's about to go back down he's looking back to the ship that he needs to get back to and as he looks in that direction he sees the fog rolling in any second that ship may be lost in that fog and he'll be out on the open ocean alone this is a painting where we see the protagonist this fisherman assessing his situation and we assess it along with him except we don't see his face very much like in the lifeline Homer doesn't show us the face of the figure we can't exactly read their emotion but wonderfully that leaves it open for us to think about what he's thinking about know he's had a long and successful day there are at least two large halibut in the boat with him and he wants to bring them back he's off the coast of Newfoundland in the open ocean at the Outer Banks this is still an important fishing ground but it is very far out to sea and if he doesn't make it back to that ship he's lost in his mode is his livelihood he needs to make it safely back to that boat and he needs to make it with the day's catch he needs to go back and make his living it really is about the ruthlessness of nature and we feel that not only in the strength of the sea but of course in the dark cast of the sky what is most powerful is not only the surge of the surf but also the isolation of this figure it's a big cold ocean it's really empty and he has nobody to rely on but himself that ship can't see him his boat is too small the ship that we see on the horizon is far away and we have a sense of the extraordinary physical strength it's going to take on the fisherman's part to get back there he needs to take these opportunities at the crest of each of those swells to be able to navigate his way back to that ship but here he's assessing not only direction but he's also assessing the time it will take and the darkness that's going to fall so like homers painting of the lifeline we have this moment of danger this moment where we don't know what's going to happen this moment when human beings try to overcome the dangers that Nature has put them in and like in the lifeline Homer is using a variety of brushstrokes to give us a sense of the water and the spray of the sea we've broad whitish blue strokes of paint in the foreground that we can see through to the dark water underneath that we really have a sense of the depths of the sea that's the foam you can see it's such an effective representation of the foam that's left over in the wake of the dory you know what really strikes me is there's this beautiful pale sunset and if this was a painting that was made on land as just an expression of a beautiful aesthetic experience but here it's a harbinger of darkness and it really has become menacing it's so interesting the way the homer has transformed the way we would normally look at a sunset or an image of the sea an American painting if we think about the way that water is represented in luminous painting for example where it's a beautiful glassy Sheen that gives a sense of reflection and contemplative nasir the sea is a space for drama and it's activated in every possible way this is a painting where the structure of space is absolutely fluid as fluid as the water is and if you think back to the history of American landscape painting where human beings are not so much actors within that space confronting the challenges of nature nature is grandiose and sublime for example in the paintings of Albert Bierstadt or Frederick Church but here it's not the landscape itself that's sublime that contains force and power it's the confrontation it's the relationship between man and nature