The Herring Net

The Herring Net
Artist Winslow Homer
Year 1885
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection
Dimensions 30 1/8 x 48 3/8 in.
76.5 x 122.9 cm
Famous Paintings by Winslow Homer
Snap the Whip
The Gulf Stream
Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)
Right and Left
The Fox Hunt
Eight Bells
The Life Line
The Herring Net
The Blue Boat
Complete Works

Winslow Homer moved to Prout’s Neck, Maine, in 1883 where he began to make history by painting some of the most powerful and enduring images of the sea ever created by an artist. The Herring Net is a superb example of Homer’s powerful ability to capture not only images of the ocean, but man’s place and ancient relationship with it.

Powerful Naturalism

The Herring Net depicts a man and a boy heavily clad in seamen’s wet gear and heavy caps as they pull a net loaded with glistening silver herring from the sea. The ocean is rough and choppy, and the day looks hazy. On the horizon are the dim outlines of the sails of ships.

Man vs. Nature

The fisherman and boy are hunkered down in great labor. As the man hauls in the net, the boy unloads the catch into the boat. The boy is depicted sitting precariously on the edge of the gunwale. They look to be in precarious waters almost in a dangerous situation, yet we get the impression that the gritty strength and experience of these salty seamen are equal to the task. This work was completed in 1895.

2 responses to “The Herring Net”

  1. Tammy ankrom says:

    Hi my name is tammyAnkrom . and I have a painting . The Life Line. Im sure its by window . it has a little rip in it but can be repaired and the back of from has old nails how do i sell it ? Is it worth anything

  2. Bob Woodruff says:

    I’ve built and sailed Swampscott dories for years. While I’ve never fished from one, (Homer’s are Banks Dories, the core of the schooner fleet, for which Gloucester is so famous). I think I can add to the description here of the background of The Herring Net. This painting is probably of Georges Bank, east of Cape Cod, where centuries of herring fishing was done, but could be the Grand Banks of Newfoundland as well, where the Fog Warning is depicted- I would guess. First, the gear they are wearing is heavy oiled cotton, hence the term “oil skins”, or “oilies”. The headgear is called a “sou’wester” – standard fishing gear, with broad brim and tail to make water go where it should – whether “green water” spray, or driving, freezing rain. The lad has his weight well to port to counterbalance the strain his mate is creating in hauling the net over the starboard rail. Note the dory is drawn BENEATH the net, which is anchored, and buoyed, and with fish weighs tons. They may fill the dory to the point of danger of being swamped, although the more weight it has, the more stable it becomes – to a degree!! As the doryman was paid by the fish or the pound, he tended to overload the dory, creating a conflict that cost many a Gloucesterman his life. Note the net under the boy. He’s making sure it is clear of fish, and kelp and not snarled in any way before it is deployed to port. If Homer didn’t go dorying himself (it is unclear), he certainly talked to the men who did, and learned much that is subtly told in his masterful “Fog Warning”of the Halibut/Cod fishers of the Grand Banks, and the Georges men, depicted in “The Herring Net”. At 86, I’ve just used Homer’s works as an inspiration for my solo dory voyage – into acrylics. It’s one thing to attempt to duplicate a great artist’s works. It’s another to attempt to create FROM SCRATCH a painting so filled with the drama! An everyday activity, that exploited human and natural resources to the maximum. But also a way of life that many men found more exciting than being landsmen!

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