In 1911 Keating won a scholarship to the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art where he came under the influence of the life school of Sir William Orpen and became something of a protg. In 1914 he discovered the Aran Islands and this visit became a turning point in his life. He had been overworking at the school of art and his friend Harry Clarke had suggested a visit to the Aran Islands. Keating demurred as he only had 5 in his pocket, but Clarke assured him that so much money would go a long way in Inisheer, the smallest of the Islands. The next year, Orpen asked Keating to assist him in his studio in London. When he had to return to Ireland the following year, 1916, he tried to persuade Orpen to go back with him by saying that he was going to Aran 'as there is endless painting to be done', but Orpen remained to become a War Artist.
Keating produced many large oil paintings of life in the West of Ireland, more in the realistic tradition of playwrights such as John Millington Synge rather than the romantic writings of William Butler Yeats. This work shows three Aran fishermen about to set out in their currach, their wives dressed in traditional Aran shawls waiting to see them off to sea.