Winslow Homer was an American landscape painter and illustrator, best known for his marine subjects. He is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th-century America and a preeminent figure in American art. Largely self-taught, Homer began his career working as a commercial illustrator. He subsequently took up oil painting and produced major studio works characterized by the weight and density he exploited from the medium. He also worked extensively in watercolor, creating a fluid and prolific oeuvre, primarily chronicling his working vacations. Homer chronicled some of the most turbulent and transformative decades of American history. He developed his distinctive artistic vision in a crucible of struggle, creating emblematic paintings that illuminate the effects of the Civil War (1861–65) on soldiers, formerly enslaved people, and the landscape. Turning to charged depictions of rural life, heroic rescues, and churning seas, Homer continued to grapple with themes of mortality and the often-uneasy relationship between humans and the natural world.