Eleven years after Edward D. Adams purchased Undertow, Homer sent him six
drawings that he had used to develop the painting’s composition. Although we know
neither the date (with the exception of the one bearing the inscription April 25, 1886)
nor the order in which Homer made the drawings, they show the quickness and
spontaneity of his working process; Homer sketched on scraps of paper of varying
color and size, using fronts and backs of some sheets, often without bothering to
center the figures. These studies demonstrate that Homer worked through significantly
different figural arrangements before deciding on the final composition.