Oil on canvas
11¼ x 7¼ inches
Signed lower left
A summer job aboard a freighter sparked Gwathmey's interest in art: he sketched to fill the time on the ship and visited museums and galleries when it stopped in European ports. Upon his return to the United States he studied at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1944–45 Gwathmey, a native Southerner, received a fellowship to live on a tobacco farm in North Carolina, where he worked with sharecroppers and observed the conditions of African Americans. These experiences affected him profoundly: “I was shocked by the poverty…. If I had never gone back home, perhaps I would never have painted the Negro.” Chronicling race relations and life in the South, Gwathmey became one of the most important Social Realist painters during the 1940s and 1950s.
Mending is a study for one of the figures in Gwathmey’s important painting Singing and Mending (Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC), in which the sewing woman is depicted alongside a man playing guitar.