Winslow Homer’s painting, Canoe in the Rapids, created in 1897, is a peaceful depiction of a river’s surface over submerged rocks. The artist was always drawn to marine subjects and landscapes. In fact, he based this painting on watercolors from his last visit to Canada with his brother Charles in 1902. The artwork, held at Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum, is a watercolor on paper.
Homer was known for being self-taught and initially started as a commercial illustrator before becoming known for his outdoor scenes featuring boats and coastlines. His works like Canoe in the Rapids are considered to embody the sublime power of nature and its indifference to human drama.
The painting itself features a canoe paddling through calm waters with various rock formations hiding beneath it. Although it may seem like nothing is happening in the piece; however, this stillness is precisely what makes it stand out amongst Homer’s other works that depict more tumultuous situations like rough waves or severe weather conditions. Its intimacy somehow manages to be both inviting and ominous at the same time – inviting us into this serene world while leaving us ever-aware of nature’s sometimes unpredictable ways.