The present painting dates from Wood's second visit to St Ives in 1928. He had first met Ben and Winifred Nicholson in 1926 and in the September of 1928 he joined them in Cornwall. It was during this visit that he and Ben Nicholson encountered the primitive painter, Alfred Wallis.
After Ben and Winifred returned to London, Wood stayed on until November, renting a cottage on the edge of Porthmeor Beach. He visited Wallis daily and wrote to Winifred describing the Cornish fishermen: 'they look like pirates with big jack boots up to their thighs and skin hats with wings in them like Mercury'. (see H. Gresty, Christopher Wood, The Last Years 1928-1930, Newlyn Art Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, 1989, p.9).
The church of St. Nicholas on the Island at St Ives provides the main focus in the present composition and had captured Wood's imagination during his first visit to St Ives in 1926. In a letter to his mother dated 6 September Wood describes how a window of his house looked 'onto a few rocks where the sea is always up as the tide only changes a foot or two. Opposite is the little port, full of fishing boats, and the little grey houses go up and up behind it and are topped by a little green hill with a small chapel on it, which adds greatly to the interest of the composition. There are two lighthouses and the old quays run around the harbour. (see Tate Gallery Archive, no.773).