Winslow Homer (1836–1910)

Apple Picking, 1878

Watercolor and gouache on paper, laid down on board, 7 x 8 3/8 in. (17.8 x 21.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.7

The much-admired American painter Winslow Homer used his art to document contemporary outdoor life and explore people’s physical and emotional relationships to nature. He painted Apple Picking at Houghton Farm in the Hudson River Valley. The watercolor depicts two girls, dressed in rustic clothes, posed together in a sunlit apple orchard. The contrast between bright sun and deep shadow on their attire and their surroundings demonstrates the artist’s exceptional ability to convey the effects of natural light. Devoid of sentimentality, Homer’s vision engages in the contemporary fascination with childhood, a symbol of both national regeneration and lost innocence in the wake of the American Civil War (1861–65). The scene lacks the carefree exuberance of depictions of youth by other artists of that period. Instead, these young apple pickers gaze into the distance, looking precociously wise and aware.

Learn more about this watercolor on the Terra Foundation website.