Winslow Homer, American, 1836-1910
Oil on canvas
In 1883, Homer witnessed an event near Atlantic City, New Jersey, that allegedly inspired this dramatic painting. Rescuers try to haul ashore two women, weighed down by their waterlogged bathing dresses, in danger of being pulled beneath the waves by an undertow. The figures appear as three-dimensional and solid as the ancient Greek marble statues on which they were modeled. Yet despite their muscularity and apparent strength, their struggle suggests human frailty in the face of the sea’s awesome power.