Dating to 1961, Headwind, was painted during the most productive year of Lanyon's career and demonstrates one of the major themes that runs throughout his work, the exploration of landscape. In 1956, Patrick Heron wrote, 'All Lanyon's forms derive, in a very strict sense, from sensory experience of his subject: and I do not limit this to visual experience, because Lanyon admits feeling, knowledge and experienced sensation from more than one of his senses. What he sees as he walks or rides on his motorbike through the landscape of West Penwith may consitute the larger part of what goes into a picture. But what he experiences physically - the up-and-downness of the path: the sliding pastness of house, rock or hill as he rides along: the going-throughness of a gap between the rocks - equally has a place in the amalgam of his painting, contributing to the totality of his awareness of the landscape ... With Lanyon, every canvas recreates a particular hill (or harbour, or cliff) by merging the evidence gained through numerous channels from more than one viewpoint' (extract of essay, first published Arts, New York, February 1956).
Lanyon took up gliding in 1959 and this had a profound effect on his work as he translated the experiences that he encountered in the air into his paintings, collages and constructions. In a radio programme, recorded 21 May 1963, Lanyon commented, 'This is why I do gliding myself, to get actually into the air itself and get a further sense of depth and space into yourself, as it were, into your own body, and then carry it through a painting. I think this is a further extension of what Turner was doing'. Other factors which also began to influence Lanyon at the end of the 1950s, and can clearly be seen in the present work, were the developments in American art, particularly Abstract Expressionism.