Born in 1864 in New South Wales, Australia, Hornel's parents moved to Scotland and in 1866 settled in Kirkcudbright. After three rather unsuccessful years at the Trustees Academy, he travelled to Antwerp to study and on his return in 1885 he met George Henry, who introduced him to Sir James Guthrie and his circle. Around 1887 Hornel abandoned the naturalistic painting style of the Glasgow Boys in favour of a new decorative approach in which his prime considerations became pattern, texture and colour.
Painted in 1890, the present work bears similarities in subject and technique to a painting of the same year entitled, The Brook (Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow). When the latter was exhibited at Glasgow's Institute of Fine Arts in 1891 The Magazine of Art commented, 'Some of the most fascinating subjects in the exhibition are by Mr E.A. Hornel' on account of the 'colour of definite force and excellently varied, laid in the most telling juxtaposition, patch by patch, like mosaic work' (see B. Smith, Hornel, Edinburgh, 1997, p. 66).
The subject of girls, set in the varied landscape surrounding his home in Kirkcudbright, absorbed him for the rest of his life (see following lots 122-126).