Fifteen years after Across the Delaware, Spencer repeated the same compositional elements for On the Bank. Spencer again divided the background into horizontal bands but without retaining the surface texture of the earlier work. Instead, he applied color, sparingly, thus exposing much of the canvas weave. As in his other late pictures, the subject of On the Bank is not the landscape but the relationship between figures and landscape.
On the Bank was painted at a time when Spencer was becoming discouraged with modern art. Perhaps for this reason, On the Bank recaptures nineteenth-century sensitivity and subject matter, particularly the "bather studies" of Renoir and Degas, to whom Phillips believed Spencer owed much.
Upon Spencer's death, his widow appealed to Phillips for an exhibition of the small paintings that Spencer had left behind in his studio. She felt that these works, including On the Bank, between 1928 and 1931, best represented his reaction to modernism. Phillips responded with a memorial exhibition in the spring of 1932, postponing an exhibition of the work of Marjorie Phillips. He responded warmly to Spencer's last paintings, referring to him as "the American Millet" and stating that in On the Bank "there is a hint of something classic applied to the lives of the plain people of his own environment."