Slightly to the right side of the composition, 3 women are wearing wool dresses and they are drying themselves off after coming from the ocean. Although they are physically close, the women are all standing with their backs against facing one another and seem psychologically distant. In the painting, the central figure is seen facing the left side of the canvas; she's slightly bent, with her blond hair falling to the front and covering her entire face. She's holding the bottom of her dress while twisting the water to come out of it, which results in her legs getting exposed.
The woman wearing black clothes is facing the background; her face is not visible. There is another woman with a serious expression who is sitting down on the floor as she fixes her shoe and look at her friend. Her posture exposes her legs, too. The severe, mysterious atmosphere that the three women have cause is broken with an image of a cheerful dog. Before painting the background of this painting, the artist concluded studies of the beach.
Following Homer's experience as an illustrator between 1861 and 1865 (during the American Civil War), he turned his focus to lighter scenes of modern and started concentrating on fashionable young women. To date, High Tide is believed to be Homer's most daring subject. The art critics of that time didn't fancy this painting because of Homer's depiction of the figures and the fact that they thought their legs were unappropriated, technique and the subject he chose to focus on, which was considered a daring theme for that time.
After the painting was displayed, the painter released another woodcut version in a magazine where the legs of the women in the painting are covered. It's unknown if the change was made by Homer or a wood engraver. The dog standing to the right side of the girls was modified as well and transformed into a bathing cap. In that print, there are a group of bathers seen in the background. One of the figures has a different expression. The oil painting High Tide wasn't well-received by critics at that time although many people can now see the deeper meaning behind this artwork.