Sutherland's expressive depiction of the landscape during the Second World War hints at the sense of foreboding that he felt during those years. In the present work, the fire that is consuming the landscape suggests a threatening and menacing force against nature. The shape and form of the flames in Gorse on Fire are echoed in works such as Feeding a Steel Furnace, 1941-42 (Tate, London), and the subject matter relates to the iconic Gorse on Sea Wall, 1939 (National Museums, Northern Ireland).
Gorse on Fire was loaned by its then owners, Mr and Mrs S. Samuels, to the 1960 Manchester City Art Gallery exhibition. They loaned a number of works to the exhibition including pictures by Matthew Smith, Mark Gertler, Victor Pasmore, Walter Richard Sickert, Fernand Léger and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.