A Littoral Tile is one of seven known single tiles produced by Winslow Homer. Homer was a founding member of the Tile Club, one of several private men’s clubs that formed after the end of the Civil War. Post-Civil War America witnessed a rise in prosperity, creating both the overcrowded industrialized city, epitomized by New York, and growing leisure time for an ever-increasing populace. Both factors gave rise to private societies that provided men an escape from their routine environment. One of the most endearing, especially in artistic circles, was the Tile Club.
Details regarding the formation, activities, and raison d’etre of the Tile Club are veiled in obscurity, calculated by its members to create an air of exclusivity and attract attention. Articles placed in the press by its members, littered with inside jokes and innuendo, provide the only source to derive what little is known about the club. Established in the fall of 1877 by a group of young artists and writers living in New York City, the Tile Club met informally in member’s studios. They worked outdoors during the summer months, painting premade tiles that were cream white and measured 8 x 8 inches (all known examples are stamped either Josiah Wedgwood or Minton Stoke-on-Trent). To insure exclusivity, membership was limited to twelve, and to present a “studiously slangy and Bohemian air,” each member was assigned a humorous nickname: Homer was the Obtuse Bard; William Merritt Chase, Briareus; Francis Davis Millet, Bulgarian; Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Saint; John Twachtman, Pie; Elihu Vedder, Pagan; J. Alden Weir, Cadmium; and Stanford White, Beaver. These club names were always used in their publications to stress the select nature of the group, as well as to create a sense of intrigue and inject an element of humor.