Find your art style through Winslow Homer or John Singer Sargent

“Who do you prefer: Winslow Homer or John Singer Sargent?”  This was the big question of the once-in-a-lifetime exhibit American Watercolor at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  I drove 7 hours to see and then answer this question myself.

Why once-in-a-lifetime exhibit?  Museums hate to display or lend their watercolor masterworks because the paper is so fragile and the colors are so light-sensitive.  So Curator Kathleen A. Foster worked for several decades to get the rarely-seen watercolors all in one place.

In the fourth gallery, was the irresistible side-by-side comparison of Homer and Sargent paintings of the same subjects.

But what if the question was:  What your preference between Homer or Sargent tells you about your art style?

  1.  If you prefer Homer – you prefer Bold Shapes, whereas if you prefer Sargent, effortless Intricate Shapes appeal to you:
    Diamond Shoal by Winslow Homer.  Private Collection.  Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Boats, Venice by John Singer Sargent.  Source:
  2. Homer’s watercolors seem to have a wonderful Spontaneity about them, whereas Sargent’s Planning produces breathtaking results:
    Life-Size Black Bass by Winslow Homer.  Art Institute of Chicago

    Escutcheon of Charles V by John Singer Sargent.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  3. If you prefer Homer, a deep sense of Place appeals to you in your work, whereas Sargent brings a sense of Exploration from his ex-pat’s perspective:
    Boy fishing by Winslow Homer.  San Antonio Museum of Art

    Nicola_D'Inverno_Fishing_on_the_Val_d'Aosta_by_John_Singer_Sargent (1)
    Nicola D’Inverno Fishing on the Val d’Aosta by John Singer Sargent.  Private Collection.  Source: Granger Meador | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


There is no doubt that both Homer and Sargent are the titans of American watercolors.  Your preference between the two can teach you a lot about your own style.  While I admire Sargent’s masterful handling of shapes and light, it is Homer’s bold shapes and deep sense of place that speak powerfully to me.

What has an artist pairing taught you about your style?








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