Alfred Wallis was a sailor and marine scrap merchant in St Ives, Cornwall, who started painting in his seventies with no artistic training, bringing to his work his direct experiences of the sea and its vessels. This fusion of art and daily life was one of Jim Ede's guiding principles for Kettle's Yard and the reason he became Wallis's most committed supporter. Purchasing his first piece in 1929, Ede built up the largest single collection of the artist's work at Kettle's Yard.
In this painting Wallis builds up colours on the page, in some areas deliberately using the translucency of the paint - he usually used household or ship paint - to reveal the colour and texture of the rough-cut cardboard base. In this simple composition the horizon is carved out by the shape of the sail as the ship rides the sea. Ede wrote of Wallis: 'When he painted the sea and a ship he knew that the ship is feather-light as compared to the vast weight of the sea ... Wallis knew what it was to be at sea - entirely and totally...'.