Breezing Up (A Fair Wind), 1873—76
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Gift of the W. L. and May T. Mellon Foundation
oil on canvas
This work was first exhibited in 1876, America's centennial year. Though gray clouds loom, a brisk breeze fills the sail, pushing the boat forward. It is an optimistic picture depicting recreation and youthful energy. Rays of sunshine light the boys’ shoulders and arms, and the bottom of the boat brims with fish, representing a good day’s catch. The image was perfectly suited to the postwar nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent America. It has since become one of the best-known and most beloved artistic images of life in the nineteenth century.