ACT Reading Practice Test 85: HUMANITIES

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.

HUMANITIES: This passage is adapted from the article "Winslow Homer: His Melancholy Truth" by John A. Parks (©2006 by VNU Business Media).

The images in the paintings of Winslow Homer
epitomize a peculiarly American 19th-century world.
Through Homer's eyes, it is a world in which people
live in close contact with nature and natural forces, a
5world where landscape and ocean are viewed not as a
paradise but as powers and presences that can be
enjoyed and whose threats can sometimes be overcome.
And, particularly in his later paintings, it is a world
imbued with a stark and melancholy atmosphere.

10In 1867, two of Homer's canvases were chosen to
hang at the Great Exposition in Paris. The artist spent
10 months in the city, which later proved to have a pro-
found effect on his art. A large display of Japanese
prints was exhibited in the same building as his own
15paintings, and the process of simplification that it
revealed and the wealth of pictorial invention it pro-
vided made a deep impression on the artist. The influ-
ence of Japanese art on Homer's painting was
immediately apparent upon his return to the United
20States. The weakness of earlier compositions is
replaced by a boldness and lucidity in which simple
shapes are massed into powerful designs.

Although Homer's work of the 1870s gained
strength, the artist continued to paint his genre subjects:
25tourist scenes, schoolchildren, and farm life. It wasn't
until 1881, however, that he found the subject matter
that would inspire him most. In that year, for reasons
unknown, Homer went to England, where he elected to
spend the summer at the town of Tynemouth on the
30coast of the North Sea. It is possible that he was search-
ing for a town filled with the type of tourists and
bathers that made his paintings of the Jersey shore suc-
cessful back home. But Tynemouth was also a commu-
nity of fishermen who wrested their livelihood from the
35dangerous and unpredictable waters of the North Sea.
Moreover, the light and weather in that part of the
world, so much farther north than Atlantic City, is
much gloomier and more dramatic than that of the
Jersey coast. It was there that Homer became enthralled
40by the dramas of the people who make their living from
the ocean: the fishermen's wives staring out to sea as
they wait for their men, the launch of the lifeboat to
rescue sailors from a foundering ship, the agonizingly
fragile fishing boats being tossed on angry waves. Here
45at last was a subject matter that matched the artist's
deepest feelings. The dynamic and dangerous relation-
ship between human activity and natural forces exposed
in this setting would occupy Homer for many years to
come. On his return to America he elected to leave New
50York and relocate to the rural town of Prouts Neck,

The legend of Winslow Homer is that he left New
York civilization to become a recluse on the coast of
Maine for the last 25 years of his life. In reality, the
55property at Prouts Neck-which included a large, ram-
bling hotel building-was purchased by his brother
Charles for the whole extended Homer family. The
artist also built a studio with an ocean view just yards
away from the family house so throughout the summers
60he could enjoy the cpmpany of his father, his brothers
and their wives, as well as the year-round guests of the
many local people whose friendship he valued. Homer
continued to travel frequently, spending parts of the
winter in the Caribbean. But the artist always lived
65alone, and when he was working, which was the large
part of most of his days, he could be extremely short-
tempered when interrupted.

The sea outside his window now inspired the artist
to create what came to be known as his greatest paint-
70ings. The Maine coast is extremely rocky and prone to
monstrous gales that-at their most powerful-can
whip up the waves to 40 or 50 feet. Screaming winds
can rip across the breakers, creating long horizontal
trails of spray. Homer rendered this sea with all the
75understanding of a painter who knows to simplify and
synthesize. In paintings such as Eastern Point and
Cannon Rock the construction of the water has been
reorganized into clear graphic shapes and strong direc-
tional lines that echo the Japanese printmaking that had
80such a lasting effect on his work. The rocks in the
paintings are massed into powerful, almost flat, designs
and the brushing has become energetic, as though feed-
ing from the physical strength of the ocean. These
paintings take on an abstract grandeur that has justly
85made them famous. They remain, however, haunting
evocations of the eternal power of the ocean.

1. The main purpose of the passage is to:

A. describe an artist's most famous painting and the experience that inspired it.
B. explore the relationship between the natural world and the fine arts.
C. provide an overview of an artist's career and important influences on that artist's work.
D. describe the work of artists who epitomized a peculiarly American nineteenth-century world

2. It can reasonably be inferred from the passage that which of the following scenes would most likely be the subject of a painting created by Homer late in his life?

F. A family strolling along the boardwalk in Atlantic City
G. A fishing boat being violently pitched about on a stormy ocean
H. A farm nestled in the idyllic countryside
J. A tourist sipping coffee at a Parisian cafe

3. Based on the passage, the way Homer depicted shapes in his early work and the way he depicted them in his later work is best described as shifting from:

A. weak to powerful.
B. sharp to rounded.
C. dark to light.
D. uplifting to melancholy.

4. According to the passage, Homer felt fascination for the subjects that inspired him at Tynemouth for a:

F. short time; Homer soon abandoned them for the genre subjects he'd been painting previously.
G. short time; Homer found little commercial success painting those subjects.
H. long time; Homer regularly returned to Tynemouth to paint.
J. long time; Homer continued to be inspired by what he saw there for years

5. According to the passage, the paintings that Tynemouth inspired Homer to create mainly featured:

A. scenes of tourists and sunbathers enjoying the beach.
B. the interplay between the sea and the lives of fish-ermen and their families.
C. the dynamic struggle between farmers and the powerful forces of nature.
D. the soothing yet dramatic beauty of the North Sea and its rocky shoreline.

6. The passage most strongly suggests that the main turn-ing point in the development of Homer as an artist was his:

F. discovery of subject matter that profoundly inspired him.
G. sense of accomplishment at having paintings dis-played at the Great Exposition.
H. decision to spend winters in the Caribbean, where he was inspired by the sea.
J. rejection of the belief that the world was stark and melancholy.

7. The author characterizes the immediate effect of expe-riences in Paris upon Homer's work as:

A. subtle; Homer continued to paint simple shapes and powerful designs but used more color.
B. dramatic; Homer's work became bolder and clearer.
C. imperceptible; Homer's work didn't change until several years later.
D. significant; Homer abandoned the subjects he'd been painting before his time in Paris.

8. The main idea of the last paragraph is that:

F. Homer's paintings of the Maine coast exhibit the culmination of his artistic skills.
G. Homer's paintings of the sea evoke the grandeur of the human spirit in the natural world.
H. the most effective way to depict water in a paint-ing is to use graphic shapes and directional lines.
J. viewing two of Homer's famous paintings of the sea had a lasting effect on the author

9. The author speculates that Homer may have chosen to go to Tynemouth because he:

A. wanted to return to the place that had originally inspired him to be a painter.
B. expected to be able to work better without the dis-tractions he struggled with in Paris.
C. needed a break from the overcrowded Jersey coast.
D. hoped to find the kinds of subjects he had depicted in some of his earlier popular paintings.

10. The passage states that in Prouts Neck, Homer could be irritable when:

F. his paintings weren't selling well.
G. storms prevented him from painting outdoors.
H. the sea was too rough to go boating.
J. he was interrupted while painting