Long an admirer of William Scott, Paton Walker had visited both the Leicester and Leger Galleries and had seen Scott's pictures in May 1946 and decided 'I'd like to have one'. It was in June 1947 at Basil Jonzen's Gallery in his Kensington home, that he found the one he wanted.
In his Purchase Book, Paton Walker notes 'This painting Woman by the Sea was given by Scott to Jonzen to sell for him at 25 gns (I offered £20 which Scott agreed to accept), paintings of a similar size and period were priced in Leger for 30 gns (refer letter from Scott, Sept 1948)'. Basil Jonzen was the husband of Karen Jonzen who studies at the Royal Academy Schools with William and Mary Scott in 1936.
The painting was loose in it's frame and he wrote to Scott about this, who replied from Hallatrow in September 1948 and suggested that as he 'was having an exhibition of some of his paintings at the Leicester Galleries at the beginning of next month' they could perhaps meet and Scott 'could examine the Sewing Machine picture then'. Scott and his wife Mary came round to Ormonde Terrace on 24 October. Paton Walker notes finding Scott both 'modest and free from theories'.
This fascinating composition relates closely to an oil of the same title, also dating to 1942, which was sold Christie's, London, 18 July 1972, lot 125. The oil had been exhibited at Scott's first one-man exhibition in September 1942 at the Leger Gallery, London and was subsequently exhibited in the 1946 Arts Council exhibition, Four Young British Painters in 1946, before being exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1950 and the Redfern Gallery summer exhibition of 1951. Each composition shows the sitter, possibly the artist's wife, Mary, in an almost surrealist setting with table-top tilted towards the viewer with a distant sea beyond. There is a powerful serenity in this juxtaposition which is, aside from being a figure composition, an early example of a table still life - the subject which Scott was to throw his passion towards for the rest of his career. Scott's hallmark characteristics are in evidence; the combination of figure and still life, the care taken over the composition and the exact placing of objects, the emptiness and simplicity and the richness of the paint surface.
Five years after The Sewing Machine was painted, Scott summed up what he was aiming for, 'I find beauty in plainness, in a conception which is precise ... A simple idea which to the observer in it intensity must inevitably shock and leave a concrete image in the mind' (see M. Rothenstein, Looking at Pictures, London, 1947, p.19).