Back in Prouts Neck, Maine, after one of his winter visits to the Bahamas, Homer painted this dramatic scene of imminent disaster. A man faces his demise on a dismasted, rudderless fishing boat, sustained by only a few stalks of sugarcane and threatened by sharks and a distant waterspout. He is oblivious to the schooner on the left horizon, which Homer later added to the canvas as a sign of hopeful rescue. Some art historians have read The Gulf Stream as symbolic, connecting it with the period’s heightened racial tensions. The painting has also been interpreted as an expression of Homer’s presumed sense of mortality and vulnerability following the death of his father.
Signature: [at lower left]: HOMER / 1899
Inscription: [at lower left, partly painted over]: At 12 feet you can see it
the artist (1899–1906); M. Knoedler and Company, New York (1906)