Saturday in the Museum with Winslow

Image: Winslow Homer, “Hound and Hunter” 1892. Oil on canvas, 71.8 x 122.3 (28 1/4 x 48 1/8).  Gift of Stephen C. Clark. National Gallery of Art.

As the weather catches up to the turning of the leaves, this painting by Winslow Homer came to mind.  So for our Saturday sojourn from the world of D.C. dining to art, we are shining a light on this classic autumnal image of leaves, crisp air, and hunting.  The painting has an interesting history that highlights society’s relationship to hunting has long been conflicted.  The painting was inspired by Homer’s annual trips to the Adirondacks.  He thought this was one of his great paintings, and it is treated as such today.

At the time, it was difficult to sell because it was seen as celebrating cruelty – some misunderstood that the stag was drowned rather than shot.  The accusation angered Homer, but he changed the painting several years after finishing the first version in 1892.  From the NGA guidebook:

It is not an ingratiating subject, particularly on the scale of a large oil painting, which is probably why it remained so long unsold. When it was first exhibited, critics believed that the deer was still alive, which made it even less appealing. On n December 1892 Homer answered such criticism in a testy letter to Clarke: “The critics may think that that deer is alive but he is not—otherwise the boat & man would be knocked high & dry[.] I can shut the deer’s eyes, &put pennies on them if that will make it better understood.” He then explained: “They will say that the head is the first to sink[.] That is so. This head has been under water & from the tail up has been carefully recovered in order to tie the head to the end of the boat[.] It is a simple thing to make a man out an Ass & fool by starting from a mistaken idea—So anyone thinks this deer alive is wrong.”

The guide explains the change that was made:

[Homer repainted] the deer’s head to make it more fully submerged, thereby making the animal more lifeless than it had been originally, and the painting more saleable than it had proved to be in its earlier state. If the change was made around 1907 or 1908, when it seems that the painting was sold.

The pride Homer took in the painting is reflected in correspondence where he noted a detail:

“Did you notice the boy’s hands—all sunburnt; the wrists somewhat sunburnt, but not as brown as his hands; and the bit of forearm where the sleeve is pulled back not sun-burnt at all? I spent more than a week painting those hands.”

Whether the image makes you think about venison or going vegan, we can help you find a place to eat in Washington, D.C.  Our dining guide has more than 200 recommended restaurants that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and/or rating.  In both MAP or LIST format.

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