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Video transcript

if it seemed that a painting of a woman being rescued from a shipwreck by a courageous man who's risking his life would be filled with sentiment and emotion but what's so wonderful to me about Winslow Homer is the lack of that sentiment we have this incredibly dramatic moment but Homer has not exploited it emotionally in fact he's even hidden in the face of the hero that's a remarkable decision when you think about it the man who's saving this woman's life his face is completely obscured by this scarf that just happens at this moment to have ripped in front of his face but of course this isn't a photograph so this incredible sense of a kind of selfless heroism these paintings by Homer will recognize is inherently American and their themes I think still resonate with us when you listen to somebody who's performed a dramatic rescue perhaps on the nightly news they all sort of push the camera away there is a way in which we want to be selfless in these moments we have a real feeling of watching this drama unfold the emphasis is almost on the mechanics of the rescue this was a new technology that allowed for the rescue of people from ships near the shore and you can just make out the loose sail of billowing in the upper left corner and you can see people who are watching the rescue all rocks at the upper right in fact that rope bows down and we can feel the weight of these figures as they skirt with their feet as terrifying surf the colors and the tones are so subdued and in create a sense of the freezing Menace of the water it's not just that they're soaked through they don't have much time that woman is unconscious and close to freezing to death there is this real sense of urgency so when we look at the water we see grays and pale blues and tones of white and lots of different kinds of brush strokes from little dabs of paint that suggest the water spring upward to longer strokes that suggest the force of the waves I actually love that area just at the cliffs on the upper right you can see the spray dissolving even though solid blacks and if you look at the waves immediately below the cliffs you can see the translucency where the wave is very thin and the light moves through it ok the man's right foot in the water you feel it dragging and the way it's slowing them down is they move along this pulley there's a real sense of the particular that make this seem so immediate and I love the way that water drips from that cord somehow the paint seems wet as though there were water spraying up from below that the clothing that the figures are wearing is soaked through in fact in some ways this painting is a nude the woman is wearing a dress and it's absolutely proper but her outfit is so laden with water that he follows the contours of her body look at the drops of water from her right hand he could really paint if you follow her hips down there's just a little bit of skin that's exposed just above her knee and you see a little bit perhaps of her petticoat below her dress I can almost imagine a 19th century viewer wanting to pull that down to retrieve her modesty this is really typical of the subject that homer painted later in his career when he lived in me and this idea of man and the forces of nature and the futility of man's efforts in the face of nature although in this case we do have a successful strike now obviously Homer didn't paint this on the beach watching a rescue the painting is based loosely about a fairly recent rescue off the coast of New Jersey but was actually posed in New York City and where he kept his studio even after he had moved to prutte snack this was the studio building on West 10th Street so imagine then his models up on the roof and him drenching them with water to make the effect just right he was recognized as a brilliant painter in his own day he was honored as the foremost American painter