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Homer Dodge Martin
(American, 1836–1897)
Autumn in the Adirondacks
n.d. (probably before 1876)
oil on canvas, 12 1/4" x 14 1/4"
Gift of Mrs. E. L. Tuohy

Early in his career, Homer Dodge Martin’s paintings reflected the influence of the Hudson River school and the style of luminism, and elements of both are seen in the relatively tight realism and light-filled panorama of Autumn in the Adirondacks. True to its title, this small painting is filled throughout with a tint of warm red-orange light, accurately evoking a sense of autumn in the mountains of the northeast. Born in Albany, New York, Martin’s talents were recognized by the well-known sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer, who convinced his skeptical parents to let him pursue a career in art. Largely self-taught, Martin may have received some instruction from the Scottish born James MacDougal Hart, whose Albany studio he rented, and later in the studio of James Smillie, when he moved to New York City in 1862. Though undated, Autumn in the Adirondacks was probably executed prior to the artist’s trips to Europe in 1876 and 1881. There Martin befriended the American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler, who recognized his talent and invited him to work in his studio. He became familiar with the work of French artists Camille Corot and Eugene Boudin, and later adopted the looser brushwork and relaxed compositions of these artists, earning him the label of the “first American impressionist.” Like many American painters in Europe at this time, Martin fell under the influence of the proto-Impressionist Barbizon school, which favored quickly executed on-site sketches over the detailed, studio-painted inventions of the Hudson River school.

Martin returned to New York in 1887, and that year visited the seacoast, when it is likely that he painted another work in the Tweed collection, Clam Digger. These two works form stylistic bookends of Martin’s career, the one adhering to Hudson River school naturalism, the other leaning toward Impressionism. His eyesight failing, Martin relied more and more on memory to reconstruct his landscapes in paint. In hopes that the slower pace and invigorating climate might improve his health, in 1893 Martin joined his son in St. Paul, Minnesota. What today is considered Martin’s finest painting, The Harp of the Winds: A View of the Seine (Metropolitan Museum of Art), was painted there in 1895, just two years before his death.

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