Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910) ~ The Cotton Pickers, 1876 ✿

Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910) ~ The Cotton Pickers, 1876

In 1876, Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910) was one of the few artists who painted African-Americans with sympathy and respect. The Cotton Pickers, from 1876, shows two young women returning home from a day’s work in the fields. These two women stand tall and proud, despite their tiring labour. Picking cotton was an exhausting and sometimes painful job. The cotton seems soft. But the fluffy boll hides the prickly seedpod underneath. Notice how it catches at the woman’s apron. This kind of realism, based on accurate observation, is a hallmark of Homer’s art.
Here, his realism serves a deeper, more symbolic function. Ten years after the Civil War’s end, not much had changed in the lives of former slaves. Look into the face of the woman on the right. She looks off into the distance as if toward a better future - one that’s still far away. Homer’s friend and fellow painter Hopkinson Smith found in this painting what he called “the whole story of Southern Slavery.”

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