Born in Detroit of German ancestry, Julius Garibaldi (Gari) Melchers studied in Dusseldorf and at the Académie Julian in Paris. In 1884, he settled in Holland and founded, along with another American painter George Hitchcock, a school of art in the picturesque village of Egmond aan Zee, on the coast of the North Sea. Initially the school functioned only during the summer, attracting young American artists living and studying in Paris. By 1903, however, Egmond and other Dutch regions became thriving artists' colonies where influential American artist and painting instructors took groups of students.
Melchers's early work showed the influence of his German training and his appreciation for Dutch seventeenth-century masters such as Frans Hals, by depicting genre scenes of fisher folk set in dark interiors. By the 1890s, however, he began to experiment with bolder color combinations and a sophisticated handling of light and shadow that echoed the concerns of the French Impressionists. "Skaters," a Dutch scene with a long artistic tradition, provided romantic visions of a rural life that became popular with an American public nostalgic for the pre-industrial past. The painting was exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago to critical acclaim.