Winslow Homer - The Obtuse Bard (draft 20150402) screen 109
detail - doctor with white coat & boy with hat seated on ground

In the upper marking, I see a doctor in a white coat. In the lower marking, I see a boy sitting on the ground wearing a hat and perhaps chewing on a piece of grass. Both images support the idea that all's well. If the images are too large, or you are too close, you may not see these. If you do not see them, they may need to be smaller or you may need to be further away. Note: In the late 19th Century it became a standard for doctors to wear white coats.

Support regarding Homer's intention comes from the context, for there is a motive for placing these two items in the painting that we can understand. Both images together support the general theme that all is well. The doctor, by himself, could just as easily suggest that someone is sick, but combined with the seated boy they work as a whole. The doctor image raises the sick/well question, but the seated boy provides the answer regarding health. A boy seated on the ground with that pose is not sick, so "all is well" in a medical sense.

This is another example of embodied illusions that function to allude to ideas that support the theme of the painting. When Winslow Homer did this, he was doing what Washington Allston laid out in Lectures on Art.

Two other images are included below.
Another image of a similar seated boy.
This image is included to help visualize the image of the boy shown above.
In the above image,
The hats are the same.
The head seems turned so we see the boy's face.
from Breezing Up - A Fair Wind 1873-1876

This is another example of a seated boy appearing in a work, not as part of the scene, but "in addition to." This seated boy (young man) is difficult to see. He appears to be sitting on a rock, not on the ground. He is facing forward, with his head slightly down. His hands are clasped with his arms on his thighs. His hat, with the front brim turned up, looks similar to the boy's hat above. His pose seems to suggest contemplation, which would support the subject of the drawing in which he appears.

From The Wreck of the Atlantic--Cast Up by the Sea, 1873.
I photographed this more than twenty years ago as a Kodak slide. I have looked for a clearer image on The Internet, but everything I have found is not as good as this image.

Note: The minor differences in the pose in these images which seems to suggest subtle emotional differences brings to mind Homer's childhood friend (cousin by marriage) James Steele MacKaye, who introduced the Delsarte Method to American acting which connected the inner emotional experience of the actor with a systematized set of poses, gestures and movements.


The presentation is available at The Obtuse Bard website