Homer was the son of a hardware merchant in Boston, America, but was only really interested in fishing as a child. After he graduated from high school, his father – who was always chasing after gold rushes and get-rich-quick schemes – apprenticed him to a commercial lithographer in the hope of making money out of Winslow.
The boy found the work a drudge and turned to illustrating for popular magazines instead, where he proved successful. He later remarked ‘from the time I took my nose off that lithographic stone I have had no master, and never shall have any’. After he settled on the coast of the American State of Maine in 1882, he developed an obsession with depicting the might of ocean waves, and dramatic sea rescues.
Pictures like the one we illustrate caused him to be regarded as one of the foremost painters in 19th-century America, and a distinguished figure in American art. In it, he depicts a lonely man on a demasted, rudderless boat tossed by stormy waves, and surrounded by hungry sharks. He followed up with a sequel of the man washed up on a lonely shore unconscious but alive. They had no radio, television, movies or internet back in 1889. The artist was the great entertainer and Winslow Homer did that well.