Gates Pays More Than $30 Million For Painting By Winslow Homer -- Price For Seascape Reportedly Is Record For American Art

NEW YORK - What does the man who can buy virtually everything really like? Perhaps a bit more art.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has paid more than $30 million for "Lost on the Grand Banks," the last major seascape by Winslow Homer which is still in private hands, The New York Times reported today.

The price is easily a record for American art, The Times said, citing art experts. John Singer Sargent's "Cashmere" sold for $11.1 million two years ago.

In 1994, Gates paid $30.8 million for Leonardo da Vinci's 500-year-old Codex Leicester at auction.

Gates' spokesmen would not confirm the purchase of the Homer, the newspaper said. The seller, John Spoor Broome, a businessman from Southern California, would not discuss the price or buyer.

Broome bought the painting from his grandmother in the 1940s.

The 1885 painting measures nearly 32 by 50 inches and portrays a dramatic image of two fishermen in a choppy sea peering over the side of their small boat.

Paul Provost, head of American Paintings at Christie's auction house, did his doctorate on Winslow Homer at Princeton. He said the price acknowledged the artist's importance to American culture.

"It's a brilliant work that really shows how Homer is exploring themes about man and nature, addressing more profound mortal themes about men struggling against nature which consumed him for the rest of his life," Provost said.