Thomas Eakins produced some of the most forward looking and innovative art of his time, and many of his paintings are rightly regarded today as among America's greatest masterworks. In addition to his heroic compositions, such as Gross Clinic, and his other life-sized portraits, Eakins also produced compositions of many figures whom he depicts in their daily work, such as the fishermen in the artist's Mending the Net, a large painting now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for which the present painting is a rare study. In the larger work the right half of the composition is dominated by a tree, which is the principal subject of the study. Like the finished composition, the light is diffuse, and the day gray--with the result that the smaller painting is a subtle, tonal study and a fine example of the artist's ability to capture a transitory moment in nature. Eakins used this study, along with other small painted sketches and his own photographic images to develop the composition of the finished large oil. His use of these compositional tools, both traditional, in the case of the photographic studies, put Eakins at the forefront of modern painters in the early 1880s.