During the mid-1920s, in his studio at 102 Rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris, O'Conor painted many still lifes featuring simple jugs of flowers. He would start by drawing the composition directly onto the canvas with a brush, before blocking in the tonal values of objects and background using a combination of rags and brushes. Finally, the modelling would be reinforced using thicker paint applied with a palette knife, extending to the flowers where deft flicks of pigment formed a kind of shorthand for petals and stamens.
Flowers in a jug is an unfinished canvas, and as such it bears testimony to O'Conor's working methods in that we can still see the blue underdrawing and the swift blocking in of forms. The flowers have been conjured from a flurry of impetuous brushstrokes, retaining a spontaneity that was sometimes lost in the more 'finished' flowerpieces. In the background, with its controlled progression from dark to light, we glimpse some shelves supporting a pile of books - evidence of the artist's bibliophilic activities.
Although O'Conor is said to have parted reluctantly with his pictures, we know that examples of his flower paintings were purchased in the 1920s by Somerset Maugham, Roger Fry (for the Contemporary Art Society, now in Tate Britain) and Musée du Jeu de Paume (now in the Musée d'Orsay), among others. These were all completed work, but Clive Bell chose an apparently unfinished flowerpiece for his collection (The Charleston Trust).