Homer's body of work encompasses a variety of themes, from post Civil War American life to the great outdoors and wilderness scenes, but his marine paintings remain his most popular. Homer began his career working for Harper's, where his work as a commercial illustrator focused on capturing depictions of the Civil War battlefront. He travelled across Europe after the War ended, but much of his work is rooted in Americana and depictions of its landscapes. The coast and sea are common themes of Homer's paintings and Dad's Coming! depicts a mother and her children waiting on the shoreline for an as yet unseen father figure to appear.
The painting is whimsical in colour, with soft grey skies and gentle blue seas merging together. However, the scene is also highly texturized, with shells and debris dotted along the sand and fishermen's nets hanging out to dry in the background. Although the three figures in the foreground, a mother and her two children, are the focal point of the painting, their faces are almost hidden and they are almost as much a part of the seaside landscape as the silent upturned boats and unmoving rocks. Still considered today to be a prominent figure in 19th Century American painting, Homer's poetic marine works are perhaps considered his most famous.
Born in Massachusetts in 1836, one of three brothers, it is likely that Dad's Coming! may have drawn inspiration from his own life. Homer was very close to his mother who was also artistically gifted, with Homer himself largely self taught. The 1870s, when Dad's Coming! was painted, was a time of self imposed seclusion for Homer who has suffered a string of let-downs with women in his personal life. Instead, he chose to live alone in a lighthouse in Gloucestershire, Massachusetts during this time, so perhaps the women depicted is one of the working women of the era whom he had seen at the beach. For those wishing to see Dads Coming! for themselves, it is currently on display in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.