Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake. 1889. Etching. Goodrich 104. 14 x 20 1/2; plate 17 1/4 x 22 1/2; sheet 18 3/4 x 25 1/2. Proof from the posthumous edition of 100 printed by Charles White for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Lifetime intended edition 100, but probably not printed in full. Professionally backed with Japanese Okavara paper. A rich impression with subtle plate tone printed on simili-Japan paper. Signed and dated in the plate, lower left 'Winslow Homer Sc 1889'. Erased etched signature in the plate lower right, just under the image. Pencil annotations in the margin, not by Homer 'Fishing' lower left and 'White 4' lower right. Housed in a dramatic period 25 3/4 x 30 3/4 x 3/4-inch wood frame with a gold lip. $15,000.
The printing of Homer's lifetime impressions was handled by George W.H. Ritchie who at first also attempted, with limited success, to sell the prints; later the print dealer C. Klackner handled the sales. Around 1900 the five plates in Ritchie's possession were put in storage and no more prints were made from them until about 1940, when Charles S. White, who had bought the business from Ritchie, began to make posthumous prints. The plates were bought by William M. Ivins, Curator of Prints at the Metropolitan Museum, who asked White to print additional impressions of the plates but to wipe the plates clean to achieve a more linear quality. The impressions printed by White in 1940 more closely resemble this impression with tone to add form that was typical of etchings produced in the late nineteenth century. The prints printed in 1940 and 1941 are often called the 'White' impressions and are generally printed on Japan paper.
This is Homer's only etching not based upon one of his oil paintings.
Lloyd Goodrich writes, in his catalogue of Homer's etchings, The Graphic Art of Wislow Homer (New York: The Museum of Graphic Art, 1958): " Homer's etchings were constructed primarily in pure line, the forms being built by linear modelling, the darks secured by linework rather than tonal printing. The devices of printing that the new school of etchers was exploiting had little place in his work, which belonged to an older tradition, akin to engraving. Compare to the subtleties and refinements of the new men, his style was severe and hard. But no other American etcher of the period displayed his structural strength, his mastery of the human figure, and his completeness of design.
Unlike Whistler, Homer's technique was line-based (an influence from his illustration background) and he did not rely on inking and selective wiping to achieve tonal quality. Homer etched 8 plates between 1884 and 1889, all were based on his popular marine paintings. He abandoned etching around 1889, partly due to its lack of profitability; Fly Fishing, Saranac Lake was likely his final etching, as well as his most experimental, a culmination of his years spent perfecting the medium."
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