In the spring of 1930, Bomberg returned from his travels in Europe due to illness and convalesced at Fordwych Road in North London. He failed to secure a gallery to exhibit his recent Toledo paintings and turned to portraiture but received few commissions. During this period a despondent Bomberg found support and encouragement in his future wife, Lilian, herself an artist.
Between 1929 and 1938 she posed for him and a series of intimate and powerful portraits of Lilian emerged. In talking about another sitting of this period, Lilian described how she responded to the challenge of posing for Bomberg, 'You must give out your whole being, the same as painting. I was giving my whole soul to him' (see W. Cork, David Bomberg, London, 1987, p. 193). William Lipke writes of how Bomberg 'moved from the external to the internal point of view when presenting his figures ... intuitively presenting the personality beneath the cloak of paint, he has managed to create what he labelled the "essence of life" of his sitter' (see W. Lipke, David Bomberg, A Critical Study, London, 1967, p. 70). In this work, Bomberg employs a darkened pallet in which Lilian's chiselled features stare hauntingly into the distance. A vertical slash of light pigment indicates the strength of the nose; where eyes should be, there are deep dark sockets. There is a sense of melancholy in the work, reflecting Bomberg's depressive mood at the time. Lipke comments: 'Bomberg's portraits of the nineteen-thirties, especially those studies of Lilian represent one of the finest achievements in British portraiture of the twentieth century'(op. cit, p. 72).