Outside the Walls of Peking was painted in Beijing (then Peking) in 1935, on Fairweather's second and final stay in China. Visiting Shanghai and Beijing for three years in the early 1930s, Fairweather was anxious to revisit China, staying for just over a year until in late April 1936, the lifestyle and work opportunities there proved too challenging for him to survive, and he boarded the Panama Maru, finally being welcomed at Zamboanga in the Philippines.
In Beijing, Fairweather spent much of his time wandering the city both inside and outside the city walls, sketching the life around him. Using these sketches to develop paintings back in his studio, it is believed that Outside the Walls of Peking, was one of only about a dozen paintings that he completed in China, with many paintings of China for years to come being produced in the Philippines, India and Australia from these sketches and memories.
The soft pastel colours seen in Outside the Walls of Peking were very typical for Fairweather at this time, an influence of the popular post-impressionist style. As was his application of paint at this time which created images more concerned with implication than reality. As noted by Decoration art critic of Fairweather's 1936 exhibition:
'Fairweather uses a peculiar technique embodying a very dry stiff paint employed rather impressionistically and with great vigour. In the Philippine pictures he was concerned mostly with figures, but in his later Peking paintings he is more interested in processions and interiors. This has allowed him to develop, for he is now less worried by details and at the same time he has avoided the impressionist trap of visual effect, his design is tight and he is really getting inside his work, feeling his subject and medium much more plastically, more as shapes and colours on his canvas than as representations of people and things.' (M Bail, op.cit., p.49)
There is a wonderful perspective in this painting, with our eye being led through figures scattered on the pathway, most seated under the curvaceous trees which shade them from the heat. When our eye reaches the edge of the wall, there stands Fairweather's most popular subject of this time - that of the mother and child - with a sense of hope, they look up to the hills beyond the wall.