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Signal of Distress

Winslow Homer American

Not on view

Though Homer’s paintings were always informed by the sum of his experiences, in the 1890s he began intentionally mining his past sketches for inspiration. For Signal of Distress, in which a group of sailors prepares to launch a lifeboat during a storm, the artist may have returned to studies he made on his journey to England aboard the steamship Parthia in 1881, merging them with other observations of the sea and rescues accumulated over the years. Between first exhibiting the painting in 1891 and selling it in 1896, Homer altered the composition to create a more desperate scene. Notably, the distressed boat on the horizon, originally shown in full sail, now appears with neither sail nor any indication of human presence, nearly subsumed by waves.

Signal of Distress, Winslow Homer (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1836–1910 Prouts Neck, Maine), Oil on canvas, American

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