Winslow Homer , Coming Through the Rye, 1867 Winslow Homer , Coming Through the Rye, 1867

The painting up for auction at Leslie Hindman, entitled Coming Through the Rye is steeped with American history. The title is drawn from a Robert Burns' poem Comin thro' the Rye, 1782, a melodic piece by the Scottish minstrel which narrates the story of a woman wet in the rain walking through the rye fields dragging all her petticoats. From the male gaze, the poem reveals his sexual desire for the maiden, Jenny, feelings that, during the time it was written, would have been proper to conceal.

So how does this poem in Scottish dialect have such a rich connection with American history? Almost 100 years after Burns' poem was written, American artist Winslow Homer created a vision of Jenny in his piece Coming Through the Rye, 1867. The painting depicts a very different woman to that in Burns' writing: Winslow's subject stands in the rye fields, her eyes downcast, whilst Burns' poem reveals the shape of Jenny's body under her wet dress, a far more sexually explicit description.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1836, Home Winslow started a career in illustration, which lasted for 20 years, drawing for such titles as Harper's Weekly. In 1859, he opened a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City, it was here that he learnt to paint. Although Homer sent to battle during the American Civil War (1861-1865) he continued to capture life in America, this time creating pieces depicting battles and life in the army camps. As well as the violence of war, Winslow also captured women on the home front during war time.

Following the war, Homer spent time in England and France, but it was his homeland of America that he held dearly, becoming one of the 19th century's most important American painters.

J.D. Salinger J.D. Salinger

Skip forward nearly another 100 years on from Winslow's painting to 1951, the year J. D. Salinger's controversial novel on adolescence The Catcher in the Rye was published. In the novel, which was the most censored book in schools and libraries in the U.S. between 1961 to 1982, protagonist Holden Caulfield misinterprets Burns' poem. Holden tells his sister Phoebe his fantasy of watching over children as they play in a rye field all based on a complete mishearing of Burns' poem. Hence the title: The Catcher in the Rye.

And now, over six decades since Salinger's hotly debated novel was first placed (and then quickly taken off) of bookshelves in America, Chicago auctioneers will be offering Winslow Homer's Coming Through the Rye, 1867. The painting is from a private collection and has been estimated to sell between $400 000 ­-600 000. presale estimate. The painting is one of two that are titled Coming Through the Rye, both completed by Winslow Homer in France in 1867. The version being offered by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers is the more finished of the two and is thus more likely the one shown in early exhibitions, including a reception held at the Tenth Street Studio Building on March 27, 1873. It sold a few months later at an auction held at the Somerville Art Gallery that year. The other version is now in the permanent collection at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

Leslie Hindman's September fine art auctions will begin with an American and European Art auction on September 27, followed by Post War and Contemporary Art and Fine Prints auctions on September 28. Check out more here.

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