Sparrow Hall, c. 1881-1882, oil on canvas, John Wilmerding Collection
The fisherwomen of Cullercoats were a source of constant inspiration to Homer during his stay in England. Admiring their strength and endurance, he endowed them with a sense of calm dignity and grace. Sparrow Hall, one of a few finished oil paintings produced in Cullercoats, depicts women knitting or darning near the entrance to a seventeenth-century cottage, the oldest house in the village. The children, as well as the array of baskets, barrels, crates, and floats scattered about the scene, serve as reminders of the women's innumerable responsibilities: keeping house, tending children, repairing nets, gathering bait, and cleaning fish. On the steps, a girl protectively steadies a younger child who dangles a bit of blue yarn in front of a calico cat. Sparrow Hall, wonderfully conceived, brightly colored, and superbly painted, stands very high among the Cullercoats works, and indeed among Homer's images from any period.