Homer’s Fox Hunt (1893)
One of the little-known secrets of art history is that artists identify with animals, often sensing that they share some aspect of the animal's nature. In this example, first noted by John Wilmerding, Homer makes his identification with the fox clear by altering his signature in the lower left-hand corner to resemble the shape of the fox.
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His signature, "Homer" (bottom), even sinks into the snow as though it had weight like an animal and is placed on the same diagonal as the fox. The left upright of the H also extends to the left like the fox's paw.1 Now that we know of Homer's self-representation, the fox's pose is significant because it would have echoed the artist's own pose. Like Homer, the animal faces the canvas with an arm (or leg) extended to paint. The fur of the fox's paw recalls the soft hair of a paintbrush while the snow-covered ground substitutes for the partly-blank canvas during its creation.
Keep an eye out for animals in a similar pose elsewhere. There are far more of them in art than have ever been recognized.
More Works by Homer
If this were an illustration of the American Civil War as many believe, it would not be by Winslow Homer. It would be by a mere painter, not an artist.
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