The painting, one of the most recognizable and important paintings in the combined collections of the Springfield Museums
, is on display as part of a new exhibit titled American Master: Winslow Homer in the Starr Gallery of the Michele and Donald DAmour Museum of Fine Arts from February 24 to September 27, 2015. The Homer exhibit runs concurrently with a display of etchings by James Abbott McNeill Whistler from the DAmour Museums extensive holdings of nineteenth century American art, giving visitors an opportunity to view works by two of Americas most influential artists.
Watercolors are subject to fading when exposed to light. For that reason, The New Novel is only displayed periodically for short periods of time. The painting of young woman reclining on the grass, completely engrossed in a book, was first displayed in the 1877 exhibition of the American Watercolor Society. The womans identity or connection to the artist is not known, though many have suggested that the artist had a romantic interest in the subject. The work marks the emergence of Homers mature style, a period when he used his mastery of oil painting and his emerging skill with watercolors to capture scenes of rural and seaside life in post-Civil War America.
In addition, nine wood engravings by Homer also are on display, including Skating on the Ladies Skating Pond in Central Park New York, Homeward Bound, and Trapping in the Adirondacks. The engravings date from early in Homers career when he captured scenes of country life and leisure for publications like Harpers Weekly.
Currently, the DAmour Museum has also placed eleven etchings by James Abbott McNeill Whistler on view in the Collins Print Gallery. On view through June 7, Whistlers World: Etchings by James Abbott McNeill Whistler features etchings from series of works inspired by Whistlers earliest years in Europe as young artist. These groupings are known as The Venice Set (or Twelve Etchings from Nature), The French Set, and The Thames Set. In addition, several reproduction photographs that demonstrate the Whistler familys connection to Springfield also are on display. These include a photo of the family residence when Whistler lived in Springfield as a young boy between 1840 and 1842. Coincidently, the building stood at the corner of Chestnut and Edwards Street, on the site currently occupied by the Wood Museum of Springfield History and just a few steps from the DAmour Museum itself.