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Winslow Homer: American Original--DVD

Winslow Homer: American Original--DVD

Winslow Homer: American Original

Devine Entertainment

The film is set in 1874, by which time Winslow Homer (WAYNE BEST) had seen and recorded enough of the horrors of the Civil War. Leaving the battlefield and his post as illustrator for Harpers’ Weekly behind, he is at Houghton Farm to be alone, refocus and paint. Breathing in the fresh air, he sets up his easel at the nearby river. A truant boy, Gabe (RYAN DEBOER) fires his slingshot directly at Homer, sending brushes and paints floating downstream. Then a mysterious, babbling girl named Fee (TAMARA HOPE) appears out of the woods to follow the painter. The children are fascinated with Homer and his art and he has no choice but to show them his studio. Since he can’t get rid of them, Homer asks them to be his models. As they pose, Gabe and Fee become fast friends.

"Genius," Baudelaire wrote, ’is childhood recovered at will." Winslow Homer was blessed with that magic ability.

The most famous American painter of his day, Winslow Homer was an artist with a distinctive eye who was able to capture the mood of rural and seaside America in a career which spanned the horrors of the Civil War and stretched into the 20th century.

After the turmoil of the war, he painted as if the trauma was best forgotten. He constructed in his art an ideal but real subject matter as far from death and suffering as possible, representing a picture of hope for a better future. Doubt, brooding and the harsh realities of life are cleared away by the wind off the ocean and the bleaching sunlight of farm fields. His paintings appeal to a particular brand of American optimism that is not unlike the jaunting and soaring rhythms of the Aaron Copland composition, "Appalachian Spring." With the clear, light, fluidity and broad sweeps of the brush characteristic of Homer’s watercolour technique, his paintings are visual music.

And the music they play is the music of childhood. In the typical New England village of Gloucester, he painted the life of American children in their natural, free-spirited state. His barefoot ruffians tear down the steps of the little red school house , shouting and tumbling over one another on the way home or playing a game of "Crack the Whip". The children in Homer’s pictures are potential America, the stock from which renewal will spring in the aftermath of War. Young, strong, quick-witted, practical and without pretence, they are akin to the beloved characters created in the pages of classic books of the same era - Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Women and Mark Twain’s, Tom Sawyer.

Winslow Homer was the boy who never really grew up. He was still playing with slingshots and scribbling on the walls in his 50’s . He preferred to keep to himself and he was not one to mince words. "Mind your own business," was his favourite expression. On his painting excursions to the woods or the beach he always brought along a board that he would stick on the path that led to the spot he was painting. Meant to keep away unwanted intruders, it read, "Beware. Snakes, more snakes and mice."

The qualities Homer valued included guts, craft, self-reliance and hard work. It’s not surprising that Ernest Hemingway became one of his greatest admirers. Both of them worked at their craft like soldiers, subscribing to the belief that skill was the result of hard work, not luck or divine intervention and that talent was something to be constantly tested and exercised. "Talent," Homer once scoffed to an admirer. "What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous hard work in the right way."

When he began his career, Winslow Homer couldn’t sell a painting to save his life. His brother secretly bought his first efforts and hid them away so that Winslow wouldnt give up. Certainly, there is more demand for his work now. In 1998, Microsoft’s Bill Gates paid over 30 million dollars for the painting, "Lost On The Grand Banks", making it the most expensive American painting yet sold. The sale drew a typically skeptical comment from one of Homer’s surviving relatives, "Not worth it!" she said, proving that the family penchant for frank speech still thrives.

A rift between the children leaves Homer at a loss to complete the paintings he’s started, so he does his best to bring them together. The two youngsters - together with Homer - eventually share the truth about their lives and what the war had done to their families, and to themselves. Through their ability to share their feelings, to escape the fear and shadows of the Civil War, all three of them discover that the present has more to offer than the ghosts of their past.

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