Winslow Homer and his 1873 painting ‘Waiting for Dad’

Winslow Homer ‘Waiting for Dad’

Winslow Homer ‘Waiting for Dad’. The title gives it away. A little lad, sitting on a beached boat, straw hat, gazing out to sea.

Mills College Art Museum USA
Waiting for Dad 1873




I couldn’t resist buying this print when I saw it hanging for sale in a local village hall. It seemed an irresistibly warm and charming picture to hang at home and for only £7.

Not pa or pops, pater or father but Dad. Fireside homely, cute and cuddly. There was this little boy waiting for his fisherman father to return with supper and bedtime tales of the sea. All is well with the world.

Winslow Homer painted this watercolour in 1873. Homer was a well-known USA artist concentrating on nature, marine scenes and the wilderness. He also saw service in the US Civil War as a war artist. In the 1880s he visited the fishing community in New England, where this work was painted.

Winslow Homer 1836 to 1910
Winslow Homer 1836 to 1910









Winslow Homer ‘Waiting for Dad’

Here he witnessed the grimness of the fisher peoples’ lives and following a little research into his work of this period, I discovered another meaning to ‘Waiting for Dad’.

On August 24th a severe storm destroyed 9 ships and took the lives of 128 men. Art historians tell us that Homer subsequently painted his follow-up work ‘Dad’s Coming!’, this time in oil and this time including 2 additional figures:  a forlorn looking woman clutching a baby. Can we assume this figure is now a widow and mother of the now partly orphaned boy on the boat? Dad is no longer coming home and mom is about to break the tragic news?

Washington National Gallery of Art
Dad’s Coming. 1873

If ‘Waiting for Dad’ is optimistic, and the boy waits in the secure certainty of his father’s return; ‘Dad’s Coming!’ could therefore be perceived as an ironic title: father has died at sea.

Two similar pictures telling dramatically different tales.

When I now look at my ‘Waiting for Dad’ a whole new emotional depth of storytelling and realism focuses my imagination. The picture has real meaning.

Winslow Homer ‘Waiting for Dad’