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The Life Line

Winslow Homer, American, 1836 - 1910

Made in United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

28 5/8 x 44 3/4 inches (72.7 x 113.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 116, American Art, first floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The George W. Elkins Collection, 1924

A replica of this work is featured in Inside Out, a series of outdoor exhibitions throughout the region.


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The dramatic rescue from a foundering ship shown here was made possible by a recent innovation in lifesaving technology, the breeches buoy. Secured firmly to ship and shore, the device permitted the transfer of stranded passengers to safety by means of a pulley that was hauled back and forth by crews at either end. Cropped down to its essentials, Homer's composition thrusts us into the midst of the action with massive waves rolling past, drenching the semiconscious woman and her anonymous savior. The Life Line was immediately recognized by critics as a major contribution to American art, portraying a heroic, contemporary subject with both painterly virtuosity and detailed observation.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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