Born in London, Patrick Caulfield studied under the guidance of Prunella Clough and Jack Smith at Chelsea School of Art (1956-9), and afterwards at Royal College of Art (1960-3), where he was a year behind a group that included Derek Boshier, David Hockney, Allen Jones, R.B. Kitaj and Peter Phillips. After Caulfield left the RCA, Lawrence Gowing, Principal at Chelsea, offered Caulfield a part-time teaching post which he held until 1971.
Eschewing the 'Pop' artist label, Caulfield instead preferred the term 'formal' artist, and he drew inspiration from the works of the Spanish Cubist, Juan Gris. Other influences that fed into his work included postcard images of Minoan frescoes that he collected during a trip to Greece in 1960, financed with the money from two prizes won at Chelsea. The flattening of form and use of bright colour, typical of Caulfield's work, can be seen in his first screenprint, Ruins, 1964.
Painted in 1975, Sun Lounge appears to be a scene of chairs and tables, caught in a shaft of light, perhaps on a cruise ship or in large seaside hotel. There is a view of blue sky and birds flying through a window on the right hand side. However, it is difficult to distinguish between interior and exterior space in the work, partly due to the strong shadows that are cast across this scene. Caulfield has used thick black outlines to describe the separate elements of the scene and these lead the viewer's eye around the composition. The painting conjures up ideas of holidays and leisure time with a collection of amphora displayed on a wall and deck chairs arranged in the sunshine, however, the urban light fittings hint at a different reading and, on closer inspection, there appears to be a lamp-post depicted through the window beyond. Typical of Caulfield's work, all is not quite how it seems, and there is a sense of unease that permeates the work, partly suggested through the dark shadows that fall across half the scene.
Marco Livingstone notes that, 'In about 1973 Caulfield had moved into the basement of a new house, where he noticed that the shadows were deep and pronounced. As a result of this observation he began to use shadows as compositional elements; the first instance of this is the set of black-and-white prints he published in 1973 ... Light is a mysterious substance in Caulfield's work of the mid to late 1970s, its elusiveness heightened by the presentation of contradictory information within a single picture ... 'I'm not actually painting from observation of light, I'm making up an idea of how light could appear to be. The angles of light in naturalistic terms could be totally wrong, but they either help the composition of the picture or they help the feeling of light more strongly' (see M. Livingstone, Patrick Caulfield, Hampshire, 2005, pp. 86-95).