John Davis Hatch Collection, Andrew W. Mellon Fund
Following an extended trip to Europe in 1866-1867, Homer adopted a warmer palette, a looser brush technique, and an interest in painting outdoor scenes that owed much to the influence of contemporary French artists such as Courbet, Manet, and Monet. Upon his return to the United States, Homer turned his attention to lively scenes of sports and recreation, painting warm and appealing images that perfectly suited the prevalent postwar nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent America. Although there is no indication that Homer was directly following the French masters, he began to share their interest in creating a series of images with the same theme, lighting and subject matter. In works such as Four Boys on a Beach, Homer began to increase his use of free flowing brushwork.