Throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century, a love of his native Cornwall dominates Harold Harvey's work. His paintings of children during these years present an ideal world in which nature and its inhabitants move in spiritual unison. Anecdote - a tug-of-war, flying kites, or apple-gathering - often acts as a foil to the majestic sweep of hills leading to the sea around the village of Newlyn.
Fundamental changes occurred in Harvey's technique as he responded to the current trends in British landscape painting. The 'impressionist' touch of his early work gives way to a crisp delineation of forms in pictures produced after 1920. Harvey was undoubtedly aware of the work of younger artists like Gilbert Spencer and John Nash, and he would also have seen the misty Essex landscapes of George Clausen. These artists appealed to the English countryside for evidence of rebirth and renewal in the years after the war. Fields become part of an incisive geometry of inter-connecting shapes; trees, laden with foliage, are rounded and folded into hillsides.
Harvey adopts these modern conventions in A Summer Night. He is attracted to the effect of the setting sun filtered through dense foliage and the interplay of translucent leaves, showing against the pale sky and the dark hedgerows. Over this landscape the sun hangs behind two trees which are silhouetted against the sky. Individual trees are often singled out in this way in Clausen's work, but where the older artist would include a ploughman or fieldworker to add scale and human interest, Harvey adds a young couple. It is likely that these were modelled by his pupil, Midge Bruford, and her fiancé. The painter also produced a picture of Bruford and her beau by an iron gate overlooking Coombe Hill around this time. Three years later in the monumental A Summer's Evening (Evelyn) (Private Collection) Harvey returned single figures in dreamy solitude to the foreground of his landscapes - this time their dreamy solitude casts a mood of foreboding over the hills and trees.