In March 1921, at the invitation of the influential collector and patron, Alphonse Kahn, Wood joined the artistic exodus to France and moved into Kahn's house, 41 Bois de Boulogne. Kahn also helped Wood acquire a studio in the rue des Saints Pères, which runs adjacent to the left bank of the Seine and introduced him to the Chilean, Antonio de Gandarillas, who was to become Wood's close companion for the next seven years. Sebastian Faulks wrote that Gandarillas was, 'a small, exquisite man, who looked like a spider monkey. He was exhaustingly, indefatigably social: after parties, he loved food, drink, opium, gambling, travel, art and young men' (The Fatal Englishman Three Short Lives, London, 1996, p. 11).
However, by the time that the present work was painted, Wood's relationship with Gandarillas has changed. In 1925 Wood had embarked on a doomed relationship with Meraud Guinness, daughter of Benjamin Guinness and by 1928, Wood felt torn between these two relationships. He spent the beginning of the year with his parents in London, and then travelled to Cumberland to visit his friends, Ben and Winifred Nicholson, before returning to Paris, when he would have painted the present work, and travelling on to Cornwall.
Eric Newton comments, 'His best paintings are at the same time radiant and faintly sinister. Fra Angelico and El Greco seem, for once, to have met on common ground. There is an unclouded purity, at times a rapture in his pictures, but there is also a thunderstorm somewhere in the neighbourhood. Sometimes it is the inky blue-black of the sea, sometimes a leaden sky, more often a series of sinister shapes that cannot be analysed, that set the mood' (op. cit., p. 46).
By 1928 Wood was regularly using opium and his use of this drug may have contributed to the dream-like quality apparent in his paintings and the heightened colour scheme that defines them.