Soutine first visited Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1919 accompanied by Modigliani and returned there often between 1922 and 1925. In 1923 he wrote to his dealer Léopold Zborowski, 'I've only seven canvases. I'm sorry. I'd like to leave Cagnes; I can't stand the landscape. I even went for a few days to Cap Martin, for I thought of settling there. I didn't like it. So I'm back in Cagnes against my will and instead of landscapes I'm going to have to do some wretched still lifes'. This cry of distress prefigures one of the most important periods in Soutine's artistic career, during which he painted some of his most challenging landscapes of the area he thought he could no longer endure. The tempestuous style of his days at Céret gave way to a more ordered and lucid articulation of his vision. The claustrophobia of his earlier pictures, with their swirling waves of colour and chaotic compositions, is replaced by a sense of clarity and balance, in which each independent element of the composition exists within its own defined space. 'The opening up of the space is reiterated by the frequent inclusion of a form that visually and literally (a road or steps) invites us to enter. This accessibility is diametrically opposed to the claustrophobic sensation generated by the Céret paintings of finding ourselves already inside the landscape. Greater atmospheric breadth and luminosity, a brighter palette of increasingly pastel-like colours, and a reduced sense of scale (note the little figures on all the roads) all contribute to this sense of expansion. They also introduce a note of playfulness, in contrast to the seriousness of Céret' (M. Tuchman, E. Dunow & K. Perls, Chaïm Soutine, Catalogue raisonné, vol. I, Cologne 1993, p. 980). Soutine himself considered this time a turning point in his artistic output, and would often try to buy back the paintings that he had produced before, particularly those from the Céret period, in order to destroy them.
This period of artistic transformation coincided with a change in fortune for Soutine. In 1923 the pharmaceutical manufacturer Dr Albert C. Barnes of Merion, Pennsylvania had bought around sixty of Soutine's canvases. Paul Guillaume wrote of Barnes seeing Soutine's portrait of a pastry chef that Guillaume had just acquired; 'When Barnes saw it at my place, he exclaimed, "But it's a beauty." The spontaneous pleasure he felt upon seeing the work was to suddenly change Soutine's fortune and destiny, turning him overnight into a painter of renown, sought after by art lovers, who began to take him seriously; and for Montparnasse he became a hero' (Les Arts à Paris, no. 7, January 1923, pp. 5-7).