Walter Langley settled in Newlyn in 1882, the first major artist to do so. Drawn by the landscape, people, and a culture that was rapidly changing due to advancing technologies, Langley captured the life – and inherent drama - of the fisherfolk that inhabited the Cornish coast with an observational sensitivity arguably surpassed by no other artist.
Life as a fisherman was incredibly precarious, with only folklore, the wind and sky available for predicting conditions at sea. Boats could set out in the early morning on calm waters (such as those in the distance), but within hours – or less - find themselves caught in life-threatening storm fronts. With such conditions the mortality rate of fisherman was very high.
Meditation subtly captures this drama and presents the viewer with much to contemplate – indeed, it could be said that the title refers as much to the viewer as to the old lady in the painting. She sits on a mound with a basket to her right, her eyes shut, facing downwards with her hands in a prayer-like position. Dressed in black, it is suggested that she is in mourning and thinking about someone close to her who has recently died. With the fishing fleet in the distance and the absence of the child’s mother (who is probably at work), it is possible that it is her son – the child’s father - who has passed. To her left, her granddaughter leans against the mound, blissfully unaware of the recent tragedy and the dangers that the fishing fleet beyond will inevitably face, possibly that very day.