Still Life with purple flowers and apples displays the dynamic use of colour that distinguished Hunter as a leading figure in British painting at the beginning of the last century. Applied with fluid and dynamic brushstrokes, the colour of the vase echoes that of the cloth and the panelled background, and contrasts with the vibrant orange of the fruit to create a highly expressive effect.
Still lifes form a major part of Hunters' oeuvre and are amongst his most desirable works. The present work is an example of a period of change in his work as he experimented with new techniques. He rarely dated his pictures with the result that it can be difficult to place them chronologically; however it is likely that the present work was painted in the 1920s, as Ogston explains, 'In the early 1920s Hunter began to show greater freedom in the use of colour and a retreat from the previous precision of representation. There was a tendency for the compositions to be less tightly arranged with a thicker and looser application of pigment' (see D. Ogston, George Leslie Hunter, Kelso, 2002, p. 48).
A largely self-taught artist, Hunter was nonetheless well aware of artistic trends at the beginning of the century having travelled widely, visiting artists and exhibitions in France in particular. Indeed, the importing of new ideas from the continent was a central feature of the work of all the Scottish colourists, who were amongst the first in Britain to embrace the freedom and vibrancy of the early modernist movement in a way that many English artists shied away from, whilst placing it in a British context for the first time. In Still Life with purple flowers and apples this is visible in the way in which Hunter has flattened the forms and smoothed the perspective of the image so that the objects seem to be almost floating. He has also enclosed the objects in the still life with a thick black outline, a technique used by the Post Impressionists which serves to emphasise their physical mass and bright colour.