It may surprise us today but during his lifetime Winslow Homer's work received a mixed reception. Potter Palmer, an early collector of Impressionist art from Chicago, turned down Homer's offer to sell of Summer Night. So the painting languished for the rest of the decade on loan to the Cumberland Club in Portland, Maine.
But all that changed in 1900 when Homer included the work in his entry to the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Among its admirers were Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne, two very different artists. After Summer Night was awarded a Gold Medal, the French government bought the picture, which is how it is eventually found a home in the Musee d'Orsay. Summer Night is included in the Lafayette Database, a project of the Louvre museum that inventories all the American artworks held by French museums.
Summer Night was painted in Prout's Neck where Homer was living in the 1890s. We can almost hear the music two young women are dancing to and the crash and roar of the waves that their comrades on the shore are spellbound by. To make sound come at us off the canvas is nothing short of amazing. One of Homer's great gifts was his ability to evoke sensations in the viewer, arguably the aim of the Impressionists, but to do it with a realist technique.
Image: Winslow Homer - Summer Night, 1890, oil on canvas, Musee d'Orsay, Paris.