The Fountains at Night, World's Columbian Exposition
late 19th century
16 3/8 in. x 25 1/8 in. (41.59 cm x 63.82 cm)
North America, American, Illinois
Medium and Support
oil on canvas
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, Bequest of Mrs. Charles Savage Homer, Jr.
This painting reflects Winslow Homer’s experience of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The so-called “White City” exemplified American artists’ embrace of classical forms in public art. Frederick MacMonnies’s Columbian Fountain trumpeted the nation’s progress in art, science, and industry. In The Fountains at Night, Homer depicts a corner of this monumental allegorical project as seen from a passing gondola. It captures the dreamlike aspect of the Chicago fair, enhanced by the new invention of electric light. Homer conveys the awesomeness of MacMonnies’s exuberant classicism in a decidedly unclassical manner with a cropped asymmetrical composition, monochromatic palette, and flattened form. These features bespeak the artist’s engagement with more modern sources of artistic inspiration, including Japanese prints and photography.
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