The Fog Warning, 1885 by Winslow Homer
The Fog Warning shows a single fisher man rowing a dory with two or more large halibut weighting down the stern; the man has paused in his rowing as the boat crests a wave, and he looks off in the direction of a large sailing vessel on lower portion of the sky, a "long and ominous cloud", as it was called by one reviewer.
When it was initially shown, the painting was apparently called Halibut Fishing, but Homer seems to have taken pains to correct that. "Winslow Homer's picture," wrote the Boston Evening Transcript, "must be introduced anew, as this name was not given by its original sponsor. The real name is 'The Fog Warning." As the latter title makes clear, the painting represents what was an all too common peril, namely the "constant danger, at all seasons of the year, of fishermen, while out in boats, losing sight of the vessels." Although the mother ship would commence sounding a horn as soon as an approaching fog was spotted, the widely scattered fleet of dories could easily and rapidly become enveloped in the mists before reaching safety. The Fog Warning, a distilled image of that intense moment when the fisherman must decide on a new course to row if he has any chance of reaching the ship, is one of Homer's most successful epics of the sea.
In The Fog Warning, Homer synthesized several themes common to his works from the mid-1880s. Similar to The Herring Net which depicts and abundant catch of herring. The Fog Warning recalls harvest themes through the large halibut displayed in the bottom of the dory. The thrust of The Fog Warning is ambivalent: the sea is both provider and adversary. The fisherman, isolated against the fog bank, is caught in an ancient struggle.