National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Mending the Nets Winslow Homer (artist)
American, 1836 - 1910
Mending the Nets, 1882
watercolor and gouache over graphite
overall: 69.5 x 48.9 cm (27 3/8 x 19 1/4 in.)
Bequest of Julia B. Engel
1984.58.3
Not on View
From the Tour: Winslow Homer Watercolors — A Survey of Themes and Styles
Object 1 of 15

In 1881 Winslow Homer began a series of watercolors based on life in the seaside fishing village of Cullercoats, England, where he stayed for almost two years. Unlike Homer’s earlier watercolors, the Cullercoats works have a timeless quality that was earlier characteristic only of his oil paintings.

Although large steam trawlers had begun to replace smaller boats as fishing craft in Cullercoats, Homer preferred to focus on the old ways. In Mending the Nets, he conveys the idea of skills acquired through generations of families at work. Mending, along with dividing the catch and distributing the fish at market, occupied the fisherwomens’ time for most of the day.

The composition suggests Homer’s familiarity with classical sculpture. The overlapping figures of the women create a compact group in a relatively shallow space, recalling relief sculpture such as the Parthenon friezes that Homer may have seen at the British Museum. The neutral background silhouettes the two figures starkly, emphasizing their strong sculptural quality. In this way, Homer presents these women at their daily tasks as timeless archetypes, imbued with a sober and noble simplicity.

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