One of the most poetic and abstract of John H. Twatchman's Impressionist paintings, "Sailing in the Mist" epitomizes his ability to fuse color and light. This seascape, which is nearly square, lacks a traditional horizon line. It is only with subtle shifts in brushwork and white highlights that Twatchman hints at recessional space. Thinly applied layers of paint merge with the white ground to flatten the space further. This emphasis on two-dimensionality is characteristic of Twatchman's best work and distinguishes it from that of other American Impressionists, who more often relied on line, brighter colors, and thickly impastoed surfaces to convey their imagery.
Early in his career, Twatchman employed the dark palette and the figural subjects advocated by the Munich Academy, where he had studied in the late 1870s. By 1883, however after seeing the work of James McNeill Whistler and that of the French Impressionists, Twatchman had lightened his palette and turned his attention to landscape subjects. He pursued this direction in his art in the many landscapes painted near his farm in Greenwich, Connecticut, which he purchased in 1899. His role as one of the leading American Impressionist painters was acknowledged early on, when the Pennsylvania Academy awarded him a Temple Gold Medal in 1895. Twatchman's works were regularly exhibited at the annual exhibitions from 1893 until 1909, seven years after his premature death.