Still life with tulips and fruit is undoubtedly one of the finest of Hunter's still life paintings and is an exceptionally colourful, energetic and vibrant example of the post-impressionist style which so fundamentally informed the Scottish Colourists. It was painted during Hunter's most active period of still life painting in the mid to late- 1920s when he took a studio in the South of France and his work became invigorated by the warmth of the Mediterranean sun and by the influence of Henri Matisse. One of Hunter's patrons, William McInnes, owned a fine still life by Matisse that Hunter greatly admired and would often sit in front of for hours. Hunter had persuaded McInnes to purchase the picture whilst they were in Paris in 1925. In his later years the influence upon Hunter was at its strongest, although he never resorted to creating pastiches of his work.
When Hunter's work was shown in New York in 1929, the critic for the New York Evening Post noted that 'it would be difficult not to think of Matisse at first viewing the exhibition. Yet, after looking at it longer one sees that there has been an influence of Matisse, but that here is a new individual palette and personality.' The bold colouring and the starkness of the forms of the fruit and the tulips against the white background and table cloth, clearly demonstrate Hunter's admiration for Matisse. The exotic floral drape in the background is also very similar to the fabric that appears in Matisse's work and is distinctly Japanese in its influence. The Glasgow art dealer Alexander Reid felt that Hunter was 'a more powerful colourist than Matisse and equally refined'.
During this period Hunter was encouraged by his friend and biographer Tom Honeyman to concentrate on painting still lifes and this was to give him a new and more focused direction in his work. With a ready market for his still lifes, Hunter painted over a dozen large and ambitious canvases during this period, with much enthusiasm. Hunter loved nothing more than to paint flowers and he relished the prospect of devoting his time to this subject. There was a renewed vibrancy and freshness to his pictures, clarity of colour and a striking contrast in his work which is truly exceptional. In the early 1920s Hunter's paint application had become rather tentative and lacking commitment, but later in the decade his paint application was applied with spirit and force. As Honeyman highlighted 'technique, as mere technique, did not interest him, it was the vision that mattered. With all his vigour and impetuosity, his impulsive artistic urge was instinctively right in choice of colours and tones. It is this unerring sense of colour that made Hunter the artist he became'. In a review in The Times in 1923 Honeyman observed that 'Mr Hunter loves paint and the flatness of paint. He loads it on lusciously ... his still life paintings are strong and simple in design and gorgeous in colour. Only his firm taste and his mastery of colour prevent him being blatant; but, missing that, he makes the heart glad like wine'.