1835 - 1910
One of Cape Ann's earliest and most celebrated summer artists was Winslow Homer who came to Gloucester in the summer of 1873 and again in 1880. When Homer first arrived in Gloucester, he had been experimenting with watercolor. He chose to abandon the studio and work out of doors while he was in Gloucester. It was then that he began to master the medium, producing very fine watercolors almost to the exclusion of oil paintings. When he returned to Cape Ann in 1880, he stayed on Ten Pound Island in the middle of Gloucester's busy harbor. A drawing from that summer—a portrait of William B. Astor's yacht Ambassadress—is part of the Museum's permanent collection.
Also in the Museum's collection is a rare Homer etching The Life Line (1884). It shows a dramatic sea rescue in a breeches buoy, the life saving device often used in the 19th century when rescue by lifeboat was impossible. Homer first dealt with this subject in an oil painting with the same title which was shown in 1884 at the National Academy in New York. The painting was an overwhelming success and has been hailed as his first masterpiece.