Object Image

The Net Mender

The Net Mender is one of comparatively few paintings painted by a female artist in the Guildhall Art Gallery’s collection. Marianne Stokes was born in Gratz, Austria, and settled in Britain in the early 1880s after marrying fellow painter, Adrian Stokes. Her paintings were influenced by their travels in Europe. A trip to Holland in 1900, during which Marianne made studies of villages and villagers’ lives, is thought to be the inspiration for this painting.

A woman is shown mending a fishing net in a simple, sparse room. Behind her, a crucifix is mounted on the wall, lending the picture an air of sober reflection and a devotional atmosphere. The scene is reminiscent of paintings of earlier centuries, specifically Dutch Old Masters of the sixteenth century, which often showed women at work in surroundings that suggested humble living and personal spirituality.

The skill of Stokes’ approach is evidenced by her ability to portray the translucence of the net. She often chose simple subjects and treated them in a flat, decorative manner, contributing to an historic fresco-like effect. The Net Mender, however, is less purely decorative and more intimate than most of her works. It stands out from the vividly coloured or innovative impressionistic style of many contemporaneous paintings, and instead offers a muted, pared-back vision of women’s work as fundamental to society. Without the contribution of the humble net mender, the fishing villages could not survive.

Oil on canvas
790.0 x 860.0 x 60.0 mm
Images and text © Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London, 2017

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