Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and "The Life Line" Kathleen A. Foster

Publication date:
02 Oct 2012
Yale University Press
144 pages: 279 x 216mm
105 color + 5 b-w illus.

The Life Line, a thrilling scene of rescue on stormy seas, firmly established Winslow Homer (1836–1910) as one of the leading American painters of his day, and one of the foremost maritime artists of all time. Combining a close analysis of Homer's masterpiece with an engaging look at the history of images of disaster and rescue in art and popular culture, Shipwreck! explores the making and meaning of an iconic American work of art.

Kathleen A. Foster locates The Life Line within the tradition of shipwreck paintings from the 17th century onward, as well as in relation to Homer's earlier work, which also featured themes of disaster, suspense, and salvation. This intriguing book presents new research that tracks Homer's delicate management of the figures' erotic embrace, and traces how the artist was influenced by popular contemporary images of drowning, rescue, and mourning as well as the development of new life-saving technologies.

Kathleen A. Foster is the Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“In this exhibition catalogue, Foster… offers an engagingly written assessment of Homer’s The Life Line (1884), a dramatic narrative of shipwreck and salvation for which he received enthusiastic praise…Beyond her rich contextualization of Homer’s art, Foster provides fascinating cultural background on changes in lifesaving techniques and how Homer adjusted his narrative strategies to best capture the public’s imagination.”—Choice