Alfred Thompson Bricher grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts and it is thought that he was self-taught in his painting technique, but in 1851 he worked as a dry-goods clerk in Boston, and during this period he may have attended Lowell Institute, for art. In 1895, he had dedicated himself to being a professional painter and in 1860 was first employed to produce a number of works for the L. Prang & Company, a Boston chromolithographer. During the mid 1860's, not unlike his contemporaries, Whittredge, Kensett, Gifford and Bierstadt, he also sketched various settings in New England, the Hudson River Valley and upper Mississippi.
In 1868, Bricher married and moved to New York to set up a studio on West 30th Street and later moved to his permanent studio in the Association Building at Twenty-third Street and 4th Avenue. While in New York he joined many art associations like the National Academy of Design and The American Society of Painters in Water Colors, where he exhibited and established himself as a painter. Bricher devoted his career to painting eastern coastal scenes by sketching during the summer months and then returning to his New York studio to finish his canvases and expand on ideas gathered from his travels.
In At the Beach, Bricher has created a sense of serenity by capturing summer off the eastern coast. This bay scene is a favorite theme for Bricher and the same coastal composition can be seen in slight variation in several of his other seascape pictures. Bricher has perfected the techniques of portraying sea and sky by use of light and subtle brushwork to create a placid and calm sea with boats heading out in the distant, sun drenched horizon. One critic wrote on a similar painting entitled Low Tide at Sunrise, Narragansett, and said, "The crawling tide is surging back from the glistening sands, the king of the day is rising behind the brown bank of cloud, his rays are caught by a projecting point of rock and by the gleaming crestlets of the waves. Mr. Bricher has studied waves and can paint them. In this picture he has shown us what he can do, and for the future we shall look for more of this sort." (J.R. Brown, Alfred Thompson Bricher, Indianapolis, Indiana, quoted from an undated newspaper clipping in the Archives of American Art)
When viewing this picture a sense of engagament guides the eye along the shoreline, to the children enjoying a respite on the sandy beach, up the staircase to stroll among the green grass of the impending bluff to look out toward the daily activity of the bay.