This is one of 16 sketches purchased by the collector John Hall from Draper's widow Ida, shortly after the artist's death. The final version of Day and the Dawnstar was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1906; a smaller version was sold at Christie's, London, 25 November 2003 (lot 153).
Draper had initially drafted the distinctive contrapposto composition for the Wagnerian subject The Meads of Asphodel; he then switched to Aurora and Tithonus, before settling on Day and the dawnstar when he discovered that George Spenser Watson was working on an Aurora.
Two other oil studies and 14 pencil drawings are recorded. The image of one figure supporting a fleeing or resisting counterpart compares to Frank Dicksee's The Ideal, exhibited at the Academy in 1905 (Draper was on the hanging committee that year); and recalls Watts's earlier experiments with Orpheus and Eurydice.