Winslow Homer’s “Mending the Nets” is a watercolor painting that depicts a scene of women repairing fishing nets. This painting, created in 1882, is currently housed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Homer, one of the foremost painters in 19th-century America and a preeminent figure in American art, was known for his marine subjects and excelled equally in illustration, oil paintings, and watercolors.
Homer began his career as an illustrator and later documented the US Civil War through engravings with both chaotic battle scenes and quiet moments of everyday soldier life. While living in Cullercoats, England, he became inspired by the strenuous lives of fishermen and women who would carry out tasks such as cleaning fish or mending nets. The scene depicted in “Mending the Nets” reveals three women actively engaged in their work while sitting on rocks overlooking the sea.
This piece conveys not only labor but also community; the strength that emerges from individuals coming together to maintain their way of life is palpable through this work. Homer’s genius lies within his ability to take such earthly scenes and capture them so vividly on paper. “Mending the Nets” carries an undeniable aspect that endears itself to viewers who inherently understand how difficult labor plays into maintaining livelihoods throughout history.