James Hook began to paint the sea and coast in the mid 1850s. This was a change of direction in his art. His earlier paintings had been of modern Italian history, and reflected his commitment to Italian nationalism that lead to his taking part in the revolution of 1848 in Venice. In contrast his marine paintings were often of sentimental subjects with children, and by the 1880s corresponded to a widespread popular taste in London. He went to Brittany as well as the English coast to find subjects to paint, and the young woman gathering seaweed in this picture is likely to have been seen on the north coast of France.