WOOD ENGRAVINGS AS FINE ART

From the 1850s to the 1880s, illustrators were highly respected in the American art world. The quality of Homer’s designs for wood engravings made in the 1860s and 1870s attests to the view that illustration could be, or could at least aspire to be, a fine art. Homer sometimes adapted his illustrations for watercolors and oil paintings, and, in a reversal of that sequence, he often reused the imagery of his paintings in engravings.

Sterling Clark recognized the prints as an important part of Homer’s work. In his diary, Clark lamented the loss of the original drawings through the wood engraving process: “A pity the drawings were destroyed in the wood cutting process—Lots of movement—...A really great artist.”

"Snap-the-Whip," publ. Harper’s Weekly, 20 Sept. 1873

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